Some of the first solid chocolate in Europe was made around 1674, but it was coarse and unappetizing. Chocolate bars as we know them today weren’t invented until nearly two centuries later.
The story of industrial chocolate when Fry and Sons replaced water-driven mills with steam engines in the 1700s, around the time of the U.S. Revolutionary War and the French Revolution.
In 1828 Casparus van Houten patented a new technique for processing cacao, using a hydraulic press to force much of the fat out and leave behind “press cakes” that could be ground into cocoa powder. His son Coenraad later developed the alkalizing or “dutching” process that makes cocoa powder sweeter and helps it dissolve in water.
At the same time Charlotte Brontë published Jane Eyre, in 1847, Francis Fry created an “eating chocolate” by adding cocoa butter back in to van Houten’s cocoa powder. It was much grainer than what we eat today, but still more palatable than the early versions. Cadbury followed with their own eating chocolate two years later.
The British Quaker companies may have made the first chocolate bars, but Swiss inventors made some crucial improvements. Daniel Peter added Henri Nestlé’s powdered milk to create milk chocolate, and the two went into business together under Nestlé’s name. Rudolph Lindt developed the conching machine, which mixes and melts chocolate for up to 72 hours to smooth it.
In 1861, Cadbury began to sell heart-shaped chocolate boxes for Valentine’s Day, and in 1895 the big name in American chocolate entered the scene when Milton S. Hershey sold his first chocolate bar.
NEXT: Chocolate for the Masses