In 1847, history was made when British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons created the very first slab of chocolate. But the story of chocolate dates back a lot further than this.
Chocolate bars and San Francisco also have a long history. San Francisco is America’s capital of cocoa, and the appreciation of chocolate bars in San Francisco is woven into both the fabric of our beautiful city and the ancient history of the Americas.
Read on and let us share some fun facts about chocolate, one of the world’s most loved foods.
1. Our Love Affair With Chocolate Is Longstanding
We humans have a longstanding love affair with chocolate. Evidence suggests that we were enjoying chocolate a couple of thousand years before the invention of writing.
A study from 2018 revealed that the Mayo-Chinchipe civilization in Ecuador was consuming chocolate more than 5,000 years ago.
Researchers and historians originally thought that the cacao tree was initially cultivated in Central America, but this new evidence indicates that it was also grown in South America.
2. The Cacao Tree Was Cultivated by the Ancients
Cacao trees can grow naturally in the wild, but it’s likely that the cacao plant we know today is the product of careful cultivation and selection.
It’s thought that the Olmecs were the first civilization to cultivate cacao. Although we don’t know what cultivation or selection methods the Olmecs used, it’s probable that they selected beans from the best trees to replant.
Cacao had important religious and cultural significance for the ancient Mesoamericans and often played a key role in social gatherings and rituals.
In some ways, this cultural significance has endured. Buying a chocolate gift box is one of the sweetest (pardon the pun) ways to mark a special occasion.
Chocolate gifts can signify love and affection. They can even be used in business settings. For example, giving clients a chocolate corporate box set can be the perfect personal touch.
3. Cacao Used to Be a Currency
You know that saying, “Money doesn’t grow on trees?” Well, this was far from true back in 250-900 CE.
According to economic anthropology findings, the Mayans used cacao beans as a form of currency during this period. Apparently, the kingdom had a cacao budget of roughly 11 million beans.
4. Chocolate Started Out as a Drink
Today, eating chocolate in solid, bar form is the primary way we enjoy cacao. But the traditional vehicle for chocolate was in drinks.
History shows that the ancient civilizations of South America typically consumed their chocolate in hot and cold drinks. Unlike the modern-day variations of hot chocolate, these drinks weren’t sweetened.
The early chocolate recipes also sometimes included other ingredients like spices, chili, or vanilla.
When Spanish explorers first encountered cacao in the 16th century, they brought the beans and the beverage recipe back to Europe. Cacao quickly took off in European courts, but only after a few modifications to the original preparation.
The bitter, unsweetened version of cacao was unpalatable to the aristocracy, but the addition of sugar and ingredients like honey and cinnamon quickly turned cacao into a hit.
Initially, chocolate was primarily popular in Spain, but pretty soon it spread to the rest of Europe. In 1657, the first “chocolate house” opened in London, where patrons could only order chocolate.
During the late 1600s, Europeans started mixing milk into chocolate drinks, bringing us one step closer to the invention of milk chocolate bars.
5. Tempering Took Decades to Perfect
Before chocolatiers developed tempering techniques, chocolate bars were grainy, gritty affairs.
It is through tempering that chocolate becomes smooth, shiny, and satisfyingly “crackable,” making it a key part of how chocolate is made. But tempering wasn’t discovered overnight. It took chocolatiers roughly two decades to perfect the process.
6. The Military Created Its Own (Not Very Tasty) Chocolate Bars
In 1937, the U.S. Army commissioned the Ration D Bar and supplied it to troops in World War II. They requested that Hershey’s make the bars heat-tolerant and not overly tasty. This might sound like a strange request when it comes to chocolate, but the army’s thinking was that if the chocolate bars tasted too good, the soldiers would eat them too quickly.
Allegedly, the bars had to taste “just a little bit better than a potato,” otherwise soldiers would consume them as snacks rather than emergency rations.
Interestingly, M&Ms also started out as military fare. Like modern M&Ms, the original army issues were multi-colored and came in cardboard tubes.
Even the time-tested tagline “Melts in your mouth, and not in your hands” was originally designed to communicate a tactile advantage for World War II GIs.
7. Chocolate Bars Are Also Astronaut Fare
Not only have chocolate bars fueled soldiers on the frontlines, but they’ve also sustained astronauts in space. Chocolate first left our atmosphere in 1961, when Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit Earth.
Since then, chocolate has become a staple comfort food on space missions. All sorts of chocolate bars have made their way into space, including Snickers bars, Kit Kats, Twix, and, aptly, Milky Way bars.
Incidentally, M&Ms are just as popular with NASA as with the US military. NASA calls them “candy-coated chocolates,” and one of their big advantages in space is the total absence of crumbs.
8. A Lot of “Old” Chocolate Bars Are Still Around
Given how much people love chocolate, it’s not surprising that some of the OG chocolate bars are still around today. For example, Lindt bars first came into being back in 1879 and they’re still popular more than 150 years later.
Other chocolate bars that have stood the test of time include Snickers, Mars Bars, Hershey’s bars, Cadbury bars, Toblerone, Oh Henry, Milky Way, Baby Ruth bars, and Butterfingers.
All of these iconic chocolate bars were developed between 1900 and 1932.
Are You Searching for the Best Chocolate Bars in San Francisco?
Humans have been drinking and eating chocolate in various forms for thousands of years. Throughout this time, chocolate has retained an association with special occasions.
Are you looking for the best chocolate bars in San Francisco? You have come to the right place.
Thanks to our high-quality ingredients and integrity of production, Teuscher chocolates are some of the finest in the world. Each batch is made in Switzerland and flown weekly to shops around the globe.
Visit our San Francisco store, or browse our online chocolate selection and enjoy nationwide delivery.