Originally published August 6, 1984
Cortez discovered cocoa and chocolate in Mexico in 1519, where it was used as a beverage by the Aztecs; later, it was drunk by the Spanish ladies of the New World, who, passionately fond of chocolate, were not satisfied with taking it several times a day - they even brought it into church. This indulgence often brought them the censure of their bishops, who, however, at last shut their eyes to it.
Chocolate was introduced into Spain about the seventeenth century and subsequently taken to France, then to England. “The devil has erected a new university”, stated Roger North, in criticizing and English public house of the day - not because of a new-fangled drink known as chocolate, but because of the spirits which lost ground.
Chocolate is manufactured from the husked, dried, ground and fermented seeds of a tree indigenous to South America, which are roasted and made into a paste, then compressed into cakes by moderate pressure. To increase the flavor and nutrient power of the cakes more or less sugar (but at least 50% for sweet chocolate) is added, and various flavoring extracts are blended with the paste before compressing it.
The value of chocolate as a concentrated food is in part derived from the sugar which is added, but it is in itself very nutritious. Like cocoa, if pure and carefully prepared, its ingredients are easily digested and absorbed. It is also mildly stimulating and exhilarating to the nervous system when the nervous system is exhausted through overwork or worry.