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Who invented chocolate or The earliest evidence of cacao was found in Ecuador

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Who inventedchocolate? The earliest evidence of cacao was found in Ecuador.

Chocolateis a delight whether we're biting into a bar or sipping hot cocoa, but who wasthe original inventor of this treat? Although it's now familiar as candy, chocolate's origins aremuch deeper. The individual who discovered how to make chocolate is lost totime, but it was probably someone in South America thousands of years ago.

The earliestevidence for the use of cacao — the fermented, dried seed of the fruit thatgrows on the South American Theobroma cacao tree — dates to around 5,300 yearsago, from the Santa Ana-La Florida archaeological site in south easternEcuador, which is attributed to the Mayo-Chinchipe culture, according to a2018 study in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution(opens in new tab).But it's likely the plant was used by people throughout South America longbefore, as the tree was already outside of its natural range by 5,300 yearsago.

Atraditional cacao drink was made by adding ground cacao nibs to waterand was typically bitter; it's thought the sugars in the fruity pulp could alsobe fermented into an alcoholic drink. The frothy mix that resulted wasconsidered both medicinal and an aphrodisiac, according to a 2013 study in thejournal Nutrients (opens in new tab), and it was highly prized by the elites ofancient societies. According to a Boston University article (opens in newtab), the Olmecs — who lived in the south of what's now Mexico betweenabout 1500 B.C. and 400 B.C. — considered cacao a gift from their gods, andthat an offering of it connected worshippers with the divine.

People hadreached the southern tip of South America by about 14,500 years ago (andsome controversial sites suggest that the first Americans arrived manythousands of years before that), but it isn't known exactly when the firstpeople arrived in the Amazon, she said.

The firstcacao drinks may not have been almost boiling, like hot chocolate today, butrather tepid, McNeil said. "I've traveled all around Mesoamerica samplingtraditional cacao beverages, and I would say they're warm, but not hot,"she told Live Science. Several Mesoamerican recipes for cacao drinks also usechilies to make them spicy — such as the Maya and Aztec drink xocolatl, whichis where the English word "chocolate" comes from — but it's not knownwho introduced chilies in recipes for these ancient beverages, McNeil said.

In 1795,Joseph Storrs Fry patented a method for grinding cocoa beans with a steamengine; his sons later combined cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar to make asolid chocolate bar, which became popular in Europe. The company eventuallysold several chocolate products — including the first chocolate Easter egg in1873 — and rival companies such as Cadbury and Rowntree's helped spread thetreat throughout the British Empire and beyond. The Swiss were particularlytaken with the new chocolate, and in the 1870s the Swiss company Nestlé usedpowdered milk to produce the first milk chocolate bar.

Chocolateconnoisseurs nowadays can find a wide variety of chocolate to tempt any palate:from sweet and smooth milk chocolate to brittle and bitter 80% to 90% darkchocolate (or even unsweetened baking chocolate, which is 100% cacao). But thenext time you partake, just think of the bitter taste and caffeinated buzz thatancient elite Indigenous Americans relished thousands of years ago.

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