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The Sweet History of Chocolate

Chocolate, one of the world’s most sought-after treats, excites the senses and leaves people craving just a little bit more after each bite. It is so widely enjoyed in all its variations that tearing off the wrapper, and taking in the pure enjoyment sometimes causes us forget its storied history.

Chocolate was first enjoyed in liquid form in Mexico, almost 4 millennia ago. The Mokaya archaeological site, located on Chiapas’ Pacific coast, showed evidence of cocoa drinks, while further evidence uncovered at Veracruz’s Olmec archaeological site dates back 3,700 years. The Mayans, all the way down to the Aztecs, viewed chocolate as a luxury, using it for ceremonies and as currency.

Cocoa beans were introduced to the European continent when Christopher Columbus brought it back to Spain around the 1500s. Chocolate initially did not sit well in the stomachs of Europeans, but it gained popularity throughout Europe once it was combined with honey and cane sugar.

Production on a wide scale was made possible through the steam engine, and further advancements in the 1800s—in the form of powdered chocolate—gave way to the first chocolate bar in 1847.

Two small companies, named Cadbury and Nestlé, got their start in the second half of the 19th Century. The companies steadily developed, expanding their selections and creating new treats along the way. Not to be outdone, Hershey’s got its start just before the turn of the century, marketing its famed caramel filled, chocolate-coated treats, much to the enjoyment of children and adults alike.

Forms of chocolate

Chocolate may be delicious, but it is also complex. Cocoa solids and cocoa butter combine to create unsweetened baking chocolate, which is a purer form of chocolate.

Milk chocolate is far more common in the western world, particularly in candy bars and boxed chocolate. White chocolate has no cocoa solids, and instead features sugar, milk and cocoa butter. When fat and sugar is combined with cocoa mixture, it produces another variety—dark chocolate.

Despite its age, chocolate is not immune to change. New companies emerge regularly, featuring a range of new varieties that adhere to high sustainability and farming standards.

A very Purdy picture

One of Canada’s most famous chocolate producers is the historic Purdys Chocolates, which got its start in 1907 on Robson Street, Vancouver. After a brief hiccup, the company showed promising signs of growth, and was sold in 1963 to Charles Flavelle and Eric Wilson.

After a few decades of modernisation, Purdys expanded eastward to Alberta before stretching its chocolatey fingers to Ontario. More than a century of dedication has enabled Purdys Chocolates to expand from one fledgling store in Vancouver to 64 stores throughout Canada.

Today, Purdys is a household name when it comes to specialty chocolates, featuring truffles, caramels, hazelnut Hedgehogs, and more. If you have yet to indulge, you are certainly missing out! There’s a piece of history in every bite, and all you have to do is unwrap it.

Love Purdys? Check out our Valentine's Day packs.


Photo via Lee McCoy, CC BY-ND 2.0.

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