For most of human history, people have enjoyed chocolate in a spicy, bitter drink. But when people discovered how to turn chocolate into a solid, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
That’s what I found out from my friend Omar Cornejo, a scientist at Washington State University who is very curious about the history and life of the cacao tree. Chocolate comes from the seeds of leathery fruits that grow on the tree.
If we cut open the fruit, we would find about 20 to 60 seeds on the inside. In ancient times, people would grind up the seeds and use them in a drink.
“When Europeans arrived to the Americas they found the indigenous people who were drinking this delicious thing,” Cornejo said. “It was bitter and interesting. They didn’t use sugar.”
It wasn’t until Europeans returned home that they added sugar to make it more drinkable. The drink was very popular among royalty. But engineers and scientists who lived during the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s and early 1800s helped find new ways to produce it so it could be enjoyed by everyone.