Hate Hershey’s? The Changing Taste of Chocolate Throughout History

Cacao, which is considered a spice rather than just food, was solely consumed as a drink in Mayan society. Despite the fact that literature states that cacao was exploited for its unique taste, there are instances where it was used for practical and spiritual purposes rather than its taste. It appears that cacao was used for sacred gatherings, rituals, funerals, and marriage practices, among others. The Mayans, likely the ancestors of the Olmecs, were documented to have used cacao as early as 1500 BC during the classical period of AD 150-900, making it the first cultivated crop in Mesoamerica.

(Coe & Coe 250). Cinnamon, like ingredients commonly associated with spiced and sweetened sugar cane, was added to it and heated. If it had remained unsweetened and cold, it is unlikely that chocolate would have been accepted as a normal beverage by the Spanish. The addition of sugar, which was unfamiliar to Europeans and helped to minimize and counteract the bitterness, allowed them to enjoy it. In fact, it was only in the 16th century, after the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spaniards, that sugar was introduced into chocolate. Many of us do not understand that chocolate was not always sweet.

% of Colonial European Chocolate Recipe with Specific Ingredients: Carla Martin 2020

The argument is that tastes for “superingestible” colonial made often yet divergent, connected They argue that flavor and scent, it can be solid or liquid, where cacao has an unusual transformational ability, primarily as a result of the fact that this is not the case for many other foods, but for chocolate it is clear that it has geographically distinctive tastes. The reason for this is primarily due to its endemic ties to cinnamon in Asia, as well as its proximity to Britain’s colonial influences. Today, we associate chocolate (and sugar) more commonly with vanilla, but in early colonial times, cinnamon was commonly used as an addition to chocolate in Britain.

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This is just an example of how a change in consumer taste can result in a fundamental change in the recipe of chocolate, presenting a case for causality in this direction. Another example is the drastic increase in annual sugar consumption per person in the US, from 2 lbs in 1800 to 123 lbs in 1970, reaching a peak of 152 lbs today. Before it became a staple for even the poor, chocolate was introduced as a glamorous luxury for the rich, transitioning into inclusion in recipes and increasing its production. (Mintz 122)

US Sugar Consumption Over Time: Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen, Whole Health Source 2012

Why do my international friends and I have such a strong dislike for chocolate from North America? The answer can be found in the history of Hershey’s and how its creation influenced the preferences of American taste buds. In 1903, Milton S. Hershey and John Schmalbach stumbled upon a method to produce chocolate more quickly and affordably than their European counterparts. This discovery had a significant impact on the taste of chocolate in America. The mass-production giant that Hershey’s has become has come to define the flavor of chocolate for Americans today. In contrast, Europeans who had never experienced chocolate made in Europe would find Hershey’s milk chocolate to be a revelation. The distinct flavor of Hershey’s was a result of the process of scaling-up chocolate production for North America. However, there is one noticeable difference that emerged from this process: the taste. D’Antonio explains that the added acidity in Hershey’s chocolate, which some may find unpleasant, was an unexpected byproduct of Schmalbach’s slow and low-heat evaporation process. The changing tastes and recipes of chocolate can be seen as a reversal of causality. If the process of scaling-up chocolate production had not been discovered through random experimentation, it is likely that Americans would have a significantly different taste of chocolate today. Hershey’s disregarded the help of chemists who had previously failed, and it was Hershey’s moment of deciding to enlist the help of John Schmalbach that led to this discovery.

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  • Coe, Sophie D., And Michael D. Coe. The Authentic History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, 2007[1996].
  • Sampeck, Kathryn E., And Jonathan Thayn. Substance and Seduction: Consumed Goods in Early Modern Mesoamerica. University of Texas Press, 2017.
  • Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Role of Sugar in Contemporary History. Viking, 1985.
  • D’Antonio, Michael. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Remarkable Life of Prosperity, Dominion, and Idealistic Aspirations. Simon & Schuster Paperback, 2006.
  • Exotic Flavors and Medicines: Spices (Chocolate), UCLA, 2002, https://unitproj.Library.Ucla.Edu/biomed/spice/index.Cfm?DisplayID=4.
  • CHART OF THE DAY: American Per-Capita Sugar Consumption Reaches 100 Pounds Annually, Business Insider, 2012, https://www.Businessinsider.Com/chart-american-sugar-consumption-2012-2?R=US&IR=T.
  • The lecture on Politics and Culture of Food in the Spring 2020 Academic Year will feature a slideshow presentation. It will delve into the history of chocolate and its expansion, as well as showcase a recipe for chocolate with ingredients provided by Carla Martin, a European colonial.
  • The Battle of Chocolate: American versus British Cadbury, Vanity Fair, 2015, https://www.Youtube.Com/watch?V=_lUkZH2pIYM.
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