It is believed that cocoa from which chocolate was created originated in the Amazonian area of Mesoamerica approximately 4,000 years ago. Ceramic vessels have been found with cocoa residues dating back as far as 1900 BC. Ancient manuscripts indicate the process to create the original drink included grinding the cocoa beans to a powder with the addition of maize or chili peppers. Sometimes the beans were used to make a type of porridge.
From approximately 300 AD through the 16th century chocolate and cocoa beans played an important role in both the Mayan and Aztec cultures. During this time chocolate was available for all classes as a beverage, just the royals drank it from very elaborate vessels. As a currency, cocoa beans were used in every day trade and for the payment of taxes. 100 cocoa beans could buy you a slave while 4 beans could buy you a rabbit for dinner.
In 1502 Christopher Columbus landed in Nicaragua and became the first European to discover the beans being used as a currency and as an ingredient for a beverage. He brought back the beans to show Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain and shortly thereafter the Spanish friars introduced it to Europe on a much broader scale.
For nearly 100 years Spain guards the secret of chocolate from the rest of the world. It was only when a Spanish princess married Louis XIII of France did the rest of Europe get introduced to chocolate now being mixed with sugars, vanilla and other spices rather than the maize and chili peppers. From the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s the chocolate craze flourishes throughout Europe. In 1755 chocolate makes its way to the United States.
Solid chocolate wasn’t developed until 1830 by a British chocolate maker.