1900 BCE: The pre-Olmec Mokaya people are the first society that we know consumed chocolate.
1400 BCE: First evidence of a fermented alcoholic beverage made with cacao pulp.
1250 BCE: The Olmec civilization reaches its first peak at San Lorenzo around the time of the events in Mediterranean Europe that inspired the Illiad and Oddysey.
1000 BCE: Mayan peoples move from mountains and high plains into the Yucatán Peninsula and Guatemalan lowlands, where they are able to cultivate cacao.
630–612 BCE: Sappho the poet is born somewhere in this time period on the Greek island of Lesbos. “Love shook my heart / Like the wind on the mountain / Troubling the oak-trees.”
250: Mayan society enters its “Classic period” in the Petén lowlands of Guatemala, comparable to ancient Greece or Renaissance Italy.
613: Mayan civilization is at its peak. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the prophet Muhammad begins to preach about visions he receives, which will become the basis of Islam.
770: Cacao is imported to what is now Utah.
800: The Classic Maya Collapse occurs, when major cities at the center of the Mayan region become uninhabitable due to environmental degradation and overpopulation. The populace flees south to the highlands and north to the Yucatán, which is experiencing a renaissance of its own. Coastal Mayan traders and cacao growers in the Chontalpa region thrive as well, likely monopolizing trade with the Valley of Mexico.
850: Gunpowder is invented in China sometime in the 9th century.
1200: Aztecs begin to purchase cacao from Mayan growers and traders.
1206: Genghis Khan becomes ruler of the Mongols and begins expanding their territory into an empire that will eventually cover most of Eurasia.
1325: The seat of the Aztec empire is established at Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City). In the next few decades, the largest outbreak of Bubonic Plague in recorded history will begin in Asia and sweep across Europe.
PART TWO: Chocolate goes to Europe
1440: Johannes Gutenberg invents the printing press.
1502: Columbus mistakes cacao beans for almonds. Later on the same voyage, he and his crew spend a year stranded on Jamaica.
1520: Hernán Cortés takes control of Tenochtitlan, seat of the Aztec empire, with the assistance of several other cities in the region. He controls the empire by taking emperor Moctezuma hostage and eventually killing him. Cortés and his soldiers are among the first Europeans to taste chocolate.
1527: Cortés brings cacao beans back to Carlos I of Spain.
1542: Dominican friar Bartolomé de las Casas writes an account of the mistreatment of indigenous people in Spain’s American colonies.
1560: Dutch sailors take Criollo trees from Venezuela to Celebes (now Sulawesi, Indonesia).
1582: While Jesuit missionaries exploit the indigenous people of Brazil as laborers in the cacao industry, another Jesuit, Matteo Ricci, travels the other direction to begin the most substantial direct cultural exchange to date between Europe and China.
1585: The first major shipment of cacao is sent from Veracruz to Spain.
1600: While Spain establishes the transatlantic cacao trade, Elizabeth I grants the British East India Company’s charter, spurring both English trade with and colonization of India.
1606: A Florentine merchant brings chocolate to Italy.
1615: A Spanish princess (confusingly named “Anne of Austria”) brings cacao to Paris when she is sent to marry Louis XIII. French royalty rapidly establish a tradition of morning cocoa.
1659: David Challiou is named the official chocolatier of Paris.
1697: In London, White’s on St. James’s Street opens. It caters to high-class clientele who purchase opera tickets while enjoying their cocoa.
1750s: Most Western European nations have cacao plantations in their respective colonies.
1822: The first cacao trees are transplanted to Africa, establishing what will become the world’s largest center of cacao production.
1791–1804: Haitian plantation slaves rebel. This Haitian Revolution leads to Haitian independence, though Haiti is economically devastated by extreme French reparation demands a couple decades later.
1820: The first cacao trees are transplanted to São Tomé, off Africa’s west coast.
1824: John Cadbury, a Quaker, begins selling tea, coffee, and chocolate.
1840: Māori Chiefs sign the Treaty of Waitangi, written by British representatives, setting New Zealand up for centuries of disputed governance and ownership.
1866: J. S. Fry & Sons, another Quaker company, begins producing their Chocolate Cream bar over a century after Joseph Fry’s first chocolate-making experiments.
1876: Portugal abolishes slavery, but maintains an extreme form of indentured servitude on São Tomé and Príncipe because it is the only way to keep chocolate plantations profitable.
1893: John Cadbury’s son George buys land for a company town to improve living conditions for his employees.
1905: Cadbury introduces the Dairy Milk bar, which rapidly becomes their top product.
1906: Journalist Henry Nevinson publishes a book detailing slave labor in São Tomé and Príncipe.
1909: After years of public pressure, Cadbury, Fox, and Rowntree begin to boycott São Tomé.
1913: São Tomé’s chocolate production peaks at 36,500 tons per year.
1973: Without Cadbury and other major customers, São Tomé is producing only 12,000 tons of chocolate per year when it becomes independent of Portugal.
2005: With Portuguese investment gone, São Tomé produces only 3,000 tons of chocolate each year.