1822: Global cocoa demand is on the rise as the world gets more and more excited about chocolate. But political instability grows in Latin America and plantation workers become scarce. Therefore cocoa traders seek new soil in which to grow the precious tree, which they find in Ecuador, Brazil, Asia and Africa. It will take quite a few attempts, over decades, in Africa though, before cocoa really becomes a success. As a consequence, the cocoa trade gradually shifted from the ancient to the newer plantations.
In 1828 the Dutchman Coenraad Van Houten established a very important invention that would have an impact on the rest of the history of cocoa and chocolate: the cocoa press. This press makes it possible to separate cocoa solids from cocoa butter. In fact, with this innovation Van Houten was the first to establish a defatted cocoa powder that becomes much easier to dissolve in water or liquids.
In 1839, the German baker Stollwerck started a business which grew to become one of the major companies in Germany, producing a variety of chocolate products and brands for all levels of chocolate.
In 1840 the first pressed chocolate tablets, pastilles and figures are produced in Belgium by the chocolate company Berwaerts. Historians still argue about who produced the first ever chocolate in solid form, as the hard and shiny chocolate we are familiar with today. However, the British family Fry claims to have marketed the first ever solid chocolate bar in 1846: an important, historic step. We must not forget that chocolate was originally consumed mainly as a drink, as a liquid. It was processed in some baked goods, but never consumed in solid form. Progress in cocoa and chocolate production and industrialization made it possible to give chocolate creative and innovative shapes that would forever change its appearance.
After Baker and Hannon, another important name in the American chocolate history is Ghirardelli, an Italian confectioner. He often traveled to Peru and started exporting beans to San Francisco to sell them to the gold prospectors. By 1860, Ghirardelli discovered by chance how to produce almost completely fat-free cocoa powder. One of his employees had put some leftover ground cocoa beans in a cotton bag and left them overnight. The following morning Ghirardelli discovered that the cocoa butter was absorbed by the bag and had seeped onto the floor. Ghirardelli later engineered a way to extract cocoa butter from ground cocoa to create a very soluble cocoa powder.
In 1865 chocolate was first mixed with hazelnut paste in Italy: the first gianduja was born. It became a very popular recipe that even led to the major success of “gianduietti”, small bonbons of pure gianduja.
Henri Nestlé and his friend Daniel Peters found a way to evaporate the liquid from milk and create milk powder this way. A perfect invention that would rapidly lead to the creation of the first milk chocolate tablets in Switzerland. It made them famous then and still does today.
Halfway through the 18th century, chocolate in solid form still had a grainy, rough texture, far from the smooth, refined chocolate we know today. It was Fry again who refined the production process and so produced a finer, more homogenous chocolate dough. The quality of solid chocolate was improved by this in a major way and this would inspire the Fry’s to create their first chocolate bar.
The Swiss Daniel Peter 1875 first uses milk powder to create the first milk chocolate.
In the same period (1879), the Swiss Rudolphe Lindt also adds an important contribution to the history of chocolate by engineering the first conching machine. In the conches, chocolate is kneaded for hours until the warmth makes the last fluids and the unwanted, acidic aromas of the chocolate evaporate. The result is fine tasting, creamy and rich chocolate with no off-taste.
In many European countries at the end of the 19th century chocolate became legally protected because it had by then become the subject of a wide-scale fraud: many manufacturers produced cheap chocolate by replacing cocoa with cocoa shells and cocoa butter by other fats. At the same time, many governments developed a growing sense of responsibility for safety and purity of foodstuffs. In the main parts of Europe, chocolate could only be labelled as chocolate if it contained at least 32% of pure cocoa solids.
In Belgium, the government determined it at 35% in 1894. Strict control and legal prosecution of food forgers led to an overall quality improvement of chocolate.