Prior to the inventions the Dutch and English provided to the chocolate world, there was not much chocolate eaten. Chocolate was consumed in the form of hot chocolate made from a chocolate paste, sugar, vanilla and water. It was rather thick and grainy. The concept of using milk instead of water developed in the late 17th century in London chocolate houses which are similar to our coffeehouses of today. The reason? Solid chocolate was not particularly palatable in its current form. The chocolate was not only coarse, but also rather crumbly.
In 1828, Conrad van Houten saved the day for us chocolate lovers. Van Houten was a Dutchman whose family ran a chocolate business in Amsterdam. They had been experimenting with different techniques to make the hot chocolate less oily and lighter in texture and flavor. The reason for the oiliness? The cocoa bean is half fat which we know as cocoa butter. Van Houten developed a screw press that removed the cocoa butter from the ground beans. He then sold the de-fatted cocoa powder to make hot chocolate. Everyone became extremely happy 🙂
No one realized that this invention of cocoa powder would lead to more than a better tasting chocolate beverage. It became an important by product of the cocoa bean that has been used ever since. In fact, we owe a debt of gratitude to van Houten because, if it was not for his brilliance, we would not have chocolate today as we know it. Cocoa butter could now be added to the ground cocoa beans with a bit of sugar to make a smoother paste than what they previously had to make drinking chocolate.
The next invention to come from this? The first solid chocolate called “eating chocolate” (as opposed to “drinking chocolate”) was invented by Fry and Sons in 1847. Fry and Sons was an English company which remained in existence until it merged with Cadbury in 1919. Eating chocolate was something that everyone had to have and it spread through Europe and the United States within months. The need for chocolate in all forms has been growing every since.
So I say thank you to the Dutch and English!