History of Chocolate Exhibit at the North House

Ever wondered who the first people to eat chocolate were or where the idea for the first chocolate Easter bunny came from? Do you know how many Hershey’s kisses are produced each day or how much chocolate the average American eats per year? Well you are in luck! The Greenbrier Historical Society will host its “History of Chocolate” exhibit on Saturday April 13th from 10am to 4pm as part of the 7th Annual Chocolate Festival in Lewisburg, West Virginia.  Stop by the North House throughout the day to learn a little about the history of chocolate and how it is made from Cacao trees. The North House is also an official tasting location with Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and Hidden Springs Farm.

The earliest known consumers of chocolate were the ancient Maya of Central America who drank chocolate as a spicy beverage rather than eating it as a sweet candy. By 1200AD, the ancient Aztecs were also consuming chocolate, as well as using it for trade and as tributes to their gods. In 1521, Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes conquered the ancient Aztecs and brought chocolate back to Europe.

Aztec sculpture holding a Cacao Pod circa 1200-1500AD

Aztec sculpture holding a Cacao Pod circa 1200-1500AD

By the 17th century, chocolate was a popular drink throughout Europe with Chocolate Houses (similar to the coffee shops of today) becoming fashionable places to socialize. Innovations in technology soon allowed for chocolate to be more efficiently produced, and by the early 19th century chocolate could be found solid as well as liquid form. In 1847, the Fry Chocolate company in Bristol, England took credit for the first chocolate bar created for widespread consumption. In 1867, Henry Nestle, a maker of condensed milk, and his friend Daniel Peter created the first Milk Chocolate while experimenting with ways to make chocolate less bitter.

Although popular in Europe, chocolate did not come to the United States until 1765, when Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan imported Cacao beans from the West Indies. With the help of Dr. James Baker, he set up the first chocolate mill in Dorchester, Massachusetts and produced the famous Baker’s Chocolate.

Advertisement for Baker's Chocolate

Advertisement for Baker’s Chocolate

Visit the Greenbrier Historical Society’s display on Saturday April 13th from 10am to 4pm for more fun facts about the history of chocolate!

The Greenbrier Historical Society, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, West Virginia, is open Monday – Saturday from 10am to 4pm or by appointment. For more information, contact 304-645-3398 or info@greenbrierhistorical.org. Or like us on Facebook.

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