Chocolate comes from the Cacao tree, originally discovered by the Olmecs and Mayas of ancient America. The Cacao tree grows large pods on its trunk and its largest branches. These pods contain cacao seeds (beans) and from these fermented, dried, roasted, and ground beans, we get chocolate.
The Aztecs could not grow cacao in their high mountain valleys, so they taxed the lowland tribes for a yearly sum of 980 loads of cacao beans, with 24,000 counted-out beans in each load. The cacao beans were so precious that they were used for money in Aztec market places. The Aztecs used the beans to make a regal chocolate drink which only nobility sipped. When Spanish conquistadors took cacao back to Europe, the chocolate drink remained the wine of the European aristocrats.
Cacao beans were only used for a chocolate drink until a Dutch chemist, Coenraad van Houten, invented a new machine that removed two-thirds of the fat from the cacao bean to form cocoa powder. The pressed-out fat was yellowish, chocolatey-smelling cocoa butter. Van Houten kneaded and beat the cocoa butter with cocoa, sugar, and vanilla to form a smooth chocolate candy. Other companies mimicked van Houten's invention to form all kinds of delectable chocolate bars and candies, turning the major use of cacao beans from a chocolate drink to a chocolate treat.
In 1820, Walter Baker manufactured new chocolate products using van Houten's invention, also. These products were used to make brownies, cakes, and other baked goodies. Baking chocolate, as it is still called today, is chocolate in its purest form-a cacoa paste, with nothing added or taken away.
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