Chocolate was introduced to Spain when Christopher Columbus returned from his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502.
Chocolate grew in popularity with the Spaniards, who had learned its use from the Aztecs at the time of the invasion by the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés in 1519. Cortés tasted chocolate prepared by the Aztecs and learned how to convert the bitter bean into a wonderful drink. He brought this treasure back to Spain where the origin and preparation method remained a secret for nearly 100 years.
In France, chocolate was met with skepticism and was considered a "barbarous product and noxious drug". The French court was doubtful and accepted it only after the Paris faculty of medicine gave its approval. A French queen finally saved the day. In 1615, Anne of Austria, wife of Louis XIII declared chocolate as the drink of the French court.
During the early seventeenth century, chocolate found its way to Italy and England, among other European countries. In 1650, chocolate became the rage in Oxford and in 1657, a shop called the The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll opened in London. Although chocolate was not featured, the drink quickly became a best seller. As the popularity of chocolate grew, England imposed an excessive duty of 10-15 shillings per pound. By the way, the duty was comparable to approximately three-fourths its weight in gold. It took almost 200 years before the duty was dropped.
In the United States, chocolate was first manufactured in 1765. It was introduced at Milton Lower Mills, near Dorchester, Massachusetts by John Hanau and James Baker who opened a processing house.
The Swiss began making chocolate in the mid 1800's. Switzerland, at the time, had cows but did not have abundant commodities of chocolate and sugar. In 1876, M. Daniel Peter attempted to add milk to chocolate to produce a smoother chocolate. However, adding water to chocolate made the chocolate shrink, separate and generally disintegrate. Milk has water in it, and it took Peter 8 years of experimenting before taking his product to Henry Nestle, a maker of evaporated milk. Nestle had perfected the manufacture of condensed milk, and he and Peter hit upon the idea of mixing sweetened condensed milk with chocolate.
The invention of the cocoa press in 1828 by C. J. Van Houten, a Dutch chocolate master, helped reduce the price of chocolate and bring it to the masses. By squeezing out cocoa butter from the beans, Van Houten's "dutching" was an alkalizing process which removed the acidity and bitterness, which is why alkali processed cocoa is also called Dutch chocolate.
Chocolate was available only as cocoa or as a liquid until 1879. It was Rodolphe Lindt who thought to add cocoa butter back to the chocolate. Adding the additional cocoa butter helped the chocolate set up into a bar that "snaps" when broken as well as melting on the tongue.
It was World War I that really brought attention to the chocolate candies.
The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps had commissioned various American chocolate manufacturers to provide 20 - 40 pound blocks of chocolate to be shipped to bases in the field. The blocks were chopped up into smaller pieces and distributed to doughboys in Europe. Eventually the task of making smaller pieces was turned back to the manufacturers.
By the end of the War when the doughboys arrived home, the American chocolate business was assured. Why? Because the returning doughboys had grown fond of chocolate candy and now as civilians wanted more of the same.