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History of Chocolate

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company plays an integral part of the fascinating history of the development of chocolate into the most craved flavor of consumers today.

Chocolate's origins date back more than 4,000 years to the culture of the Mayas in Central and South America. It was introduced to Europe in the 1500s and reinvented by European chocolatiers as a sweet, creamy confection. In the 1800s, it was re-introduced to the New World and America.

Read on to find out about the rich history of chocolate or find out more about The Ghirardelli Story.

OriginAmazon or Orinoco basin of South America approximately 4,000 years ago.
600 A.D.The Mayas undertook a massive migration that led this highly civilized people from Central America deep into the northern regions of South America. In Yucatan, they established the earliest known cocoa plantations. There is no doubt, however, that the Mayas must have been familiar with cocoa several centuries earlier.
1000From the very early days of cocoa, the peoples of Central America used beans as a form of payment. The use of cocoa beans as units of calculation must also have become established before A.D. 1000. One Zontli equalled 400 cocoa beans, while 8000 beans equalled one Xiquipilli. In Mexican picture scripts, a basket with 8,000 beans represents the figure 8,000.
1200By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from this period include details of deliveries of cocoa that were imposed as tributes on conquered tribes.
1502First European contact with cocoa beans (fourth voyage of Christopher Columbus).
1528Hernando Cortez returns to Spain with cocoa beans, impressed by the fact that the Aztecs used them as currency. Hernando seeded plantations on Trinidad, Haiti, and the West African island of Bioko to grow "money" to trade with Aztecs for gold. Spain then had a virtual monopoly of the cocoa market for almost a century.
Early 1700'sThe industrial revolution mechanizes chocolate making and brings the price within the public's reach. Chocolate houses start to spring up in England to compete with coffeehouses. (Chocolate at this point was consumed as a liquid beverage, not as a confection.)
1765The first chocolate factory was established in Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1828Conrad Van Houten, a Dutch chemist, learns to press cocoa butter out of chocolate liquor. This allows the production of cocoa powder.
1848Conrad Van Houten adds cocoa butter and sugar to chocolate liquor and "eating chocolate" was created.
1852Domingo Ghirardelli establishes his first chocolate factory in San Francisco, CA.
Chocolate Beans Chocolate Refining
1875Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle combine chocolate and milk powder and create the first milk chocolate bar.
1879Rodolphe Lindt produces chocolate that melts on the tongue. He develops the "conching" process that gives chocolate a smoother texture.
1900Ghirardelli Chocolate Company sells its coffee and spice business, limiting its products to chocolate and mustard. A two-story warehouse (now called the Cocoa Building) is built on North Point Street in San Francisco, CA.
1965San Francisco declares Ghirardelli Square an official city landmark.
1967Production of Ghirardelli Chocolate moves to San Leandro, CA.
1998Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate of Switzerland acquires Ghirardelli Chocolate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of its holding company.
TodayChocolate is a multi-billion dollar industry and is one of the most popular confection products in the world.