The True History Of Chocolate
Chocolate has been cultivated since at least 1500 B.C., but was consumed in liquid form until 1847, when solid chocolate was invented! Even then, it was not the smooth, creamy product we know today.


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KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE™.



May 2006

Product Reviews / Best Reads / Food History, Philosophy & Reference

The True History Of Chocolate

By Sophie D. Coeand Michael D. Coe


Read through this book and you will never look at chocolate the same way again. It’s a must for anyone who wants to develop scholarship on the topic—and you’ll get many times more than the $12.89 cost in conversational anecdotes.

Beginning with the Olmecs in the lowlands of Guatemala, who tamed the wild cacao trees and created the first cultivated cacao plantations, you’ll marvel that the sweet treat we call chocolate was for the first two millennia of its existence a tepid beverage—think room temperature cocoa, hold the sugar but add pepper, chiles, cinnamon, vanilla and...cornmeal, among other variations. Any wonder that the Conquistadors, when offered the ceremonial beverage—available only to royalty, aristocrats and wealthy merchants—choked and spat it out?

After chocolate reached Europe, still a beverage, the recipe remained secret for many years. It was taxed to the skies. It became known for its medicinal properties. It was only in 1847 that Joseph Fry & Sons, in England, created solid “eating chocolate.” And of course, since both cacao and sugar were very costly, it was not until Milton Hershey produced the nickel chocolate bar, more than 50 years later in 1900, that the masses tasted its pleasures.

More than a “history of chocolate,” this book is an academic page-turner. Like good scholars, when historical records are scarce or contradictory, the authors present multiple options. Unfortunately, anthropologist Sophie Coe was felled by cancer before the manuscript was finished. Her husband and co-author, a professor of anthropology at Yale specializing in Mesoamerica, assembled the book from thousands of pages of her notes and prepared it for publication. It’s a great legacy, and both Drs. Coe deserve our thanks.












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