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Series Editor: Andrew F. Smith

EDIBLE is a revolutionary new series of books dedicated to food and drink that explores the rich history of cuisine. Each book reveals the global history and culture of one type of food or beverage.

Already published

Curry Colleen Taylor Sen

Cheese Andrew Dalby

Hamburger Andrew F. Smith

Hot Dog Bruce Kraig

Pancake Ken Albala

Pie Janet Clarkson

Pizza Carol Helstosky

Spices Fred Czarra


Beer Bob Skilnik

Bread William Rubel

Cake Nicola Humble

Caviar Nichola Fletcher

Lobster Elisabeth Townsend

Milk Hannah Velten

Olive Fabrizia Lanza

Pasta Kantha Shelke

Champagne Becky Sue Epstein

Cocktails Joseph M. Carlin

Coffee Jonathan Morris

Corn Linda Murray Berzok

Dates Nawal Nasrallah

Fish and Chips Panikos Panayi

Gin Lesley Jacobs Solmonson

Ice Cream Laura Weiss

Porridge Oliver B. Pollak

Potato Andrew F. Smith

Soup Janet Clarkson

Tea Helen Saberi

Tomato Deborah A. Duchon

Vodka Patricia Herlihy

Whiskey Kevin R. Rosar

Wine MarcMillon


A Global History

Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch


For Anthony and Kathy

Published by Reaktion Books Ltd

33 Great Sutton Street

London EC1V 0DX, UK


First published 2009

Copyright © Sarah Moss and Alexander Badenoch 2009

All rights reserved

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval

system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic,

mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior

permission of the publishers.

Page references in the Photo Acknowledgements and

Index match the printed edition of this book.

Printed and bound in China by C&C Offset Printing Co., Ltd

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Moss, Sarah.

Chocolate: a global history. – (Edible)

1. Chocolate – History.

2. Chocolate industry.

3. Cookery (Chocolate)

I. Title

II. Series

III. Badenoch, Alexander.


eISBN: 9781861897039


1 Inventing Chocolate

2 The Chocolate House

3 The Chocolate Factory

4 The Chocolate Box



Select Bibliography

Websites and Associations


Photo Acknowledgements


1Inventing Chocolate

Chocolate is complicated. The ‘chocolate tree’, Theobroma cacao, grows only within twenty degrees of the equator, only below about 1,000 feet (300 m) in altitude. It requires shade, which must be provided by taller trees, and humidity, and a temperature that remains above sixteen degrees Celsius, all of which mean that it does not grow within thousands of miles of the countries that consume the most chocolate. The tree does not take well to being farmed, and is prone to diseases which destroy entire plantations in a few weeks. It depends on midges, which breed best on the floors of uncultivated rainforests, for pollination. The cocoa bean, a pod which grows out of the tree’s trunk, must be harvested with a carefully wielded machete to avoid damaging the buds from which more beans will grow, and the process of converting the resultant wrinkly pod into the shiny brown bars we eat is longer and more exact than any other in culinary history, involving a mixture of hand-work and high technology which do not exist in the same economy and, ideally, time spent in at least two climates; the warm, damp environment where it grows and the arid heat required for drying. The chocolate we know is intrinsically modern, the product of a world divided between low-paid manual labourand mechanized food preparation, between hungry labourers and sleek consumers, and between the ecologically rich Equatorial nations and the economic powers of Europe and North America. It could not exist, in its familiar form, in any other era.

Cocoa tree.

Mesoamerican Chocolate

In the beginning, then, there was no chocolate. There may have been wild Theobroma cacao trees in Central America before human beings reached that continent – there were, and are, other species of Theobroma – but in any case there is evidence that the tree was domesticated by the earliest civilization of the Americas. Sophie and Michael Coe argue in The True History of Chocolate that there is linguistic if not archaeological evidence linking Theobroma cacao with the Olmec, the people who inhabited the Mexican Gulf Coast between 1500 and 400 BCE. Partly because of the warm and humid climate which created the fertile lands on which this complex culture was based, little material evidence of Olmec life survives, but traces of cacao have since been found on ceramic vessels from Olmec-era, pre-Classic Maya sites in Belize. Descendants of the Olmec, the Izapan, are the mostlikely bearers of cacao to the Maya, whose magnificent cities were established in the cacao-growing lowlands by around 250 CE. It is in the context of the Classic Maya civilization that we begin to encounter the origins of the modern myths of chocolate deployed on wrappers and in the more enthusiastic popular histories.

Cocoa harvest in West Africa — pods being opened with a small machete.

Mayan stone with relief carving depicting the ruler Itzamna sitting on a throne holding a vision serpent.

Both traces and images of Maya cacao consumption survive. Maya writing was decoded in the second half of the twentieth century, and although nearly all of the bark books and codices were destroyed either in the Maya Collapse of the ninth century, when the civilization entered a rapid decline, or by the Spanish in the years following the Conquest, hieroglyphs and pictures on vases attest to cacao use in the Classic era. Many of these vases were found in tests at the Hershey Laboratory in Pennsylvania to contain traces of the chemical theobromine, a component of chocolate that can survive for centuries. Four books survive from the post-Classic era, giving more detail about the first chocolate.

Maya vases depict the harvest, preparation and consumption of chocolate. The beans were picked, fermented and dried near the groves where they grew, after which they could be transported long distances, often up into the highlands, where consumption, at least among the rich, seems to have been untrammelled by distance from the raw material. (The distance between consumers and producers has beenpart of chocolate history from the beginning.) After that, women – it was always women – roasted the beans and then ground them with a pestle, a mano, on

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