• A brief history of cocoa

    From food of the gods to Dutch expertise

The Cocoa Journey

 

Theobroma Cacao

Cocoa makes a name for itself

In the mid-1700’s the cocoa tree receives an official botanical name from Carolus Linnaeus, the father of modern-day taxonomy: Theobroma Cacao, which refers to its divine background. The name is derived from ancient Greek and literally means: “Cocoa, food of the Gods”.

Napoleon came, saw and instructed

The Dutch apply themselves to cocoa processing

From 1795 to 1813, the Netherlands were under French authority. By then, the Dutch West India Company had already turned trading cocoa into a lucrative business. But when Napoleon arrived, he presented the Dutch with a valuable treasure: the French Emperor taught them how to turn cocoa beans into delicious cocoa and chocolate delicacies.

 

Zeeland drinking chocolate

The Dutch apply themselves to cocoa processing

After the departure of Napoleon’s troops, the Dutch applied themselves to processing the cocoa beans they imported from their colonies Suriname, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. The Zeelanders, inhabitants of southwestern Holland, were particularly innovative and created a product called ‘Zeeland drinking chocolate’. It was made of cocoa mass compressed into small tablets and was essentially the predecessor of cocoa powder.

 

19th century Holland

A chocolate manufacturing hotbed

By 1828 the Port of Amsterdam had grown to be the world’s most important transit harbor for cocoa and the Netherlands (with their cocoa rich colonies Suriname, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea) had established themselves as a chocolate manufacturing hotbed. Dutchman Coenraad van Houten invented the cocoa press, which made it possible to produce cocoa powder that was incredibly easy to dissolve in liquids. The Dutching process, another Van Houten invention, improved the solubility of cocoa powder even more and allowed greater variation in taste and color.

Popularization through industrialization

The whole world gets to know cocoa

At the beginning of the 20th century cocoa production shifted from Central and South America to Africa and Asia. At the same time the real industrialization of cocoa processing took place all over Europe and the United States. Countries like the Netherlands and companies like Bensdorp were at the cutting edge of innovation, with fast production and innovative marketing techniques.

 

Affordable luxury

Chocolate becomes part of the everyday diet

Competitive raw material prices and technical revolutions quickly made chocolate affordable and cocoa products became part of our everyday diet in the post-World War II era. So, throughout its evolution from bitter beverage to the thousands of different ways chocolate is enjoyed today, one thing has remained constant: chocolate has never lacked any worshippers. The heavenly treat truly is a ‘food of the gods’.

The Journey