Chocolate has a long and storied history that began with the Olmec Indians of Central America who are believed to have been the first to grow cocoa beans. Then the Mayans established plantations and restricted cocoa consumption to the Mayan society's elite in the form of an unsweetened drink made from ground cocoa beans. The cocoa bean was also used as a unit of calculation and currency. In 1502 Christopher Columbus became the first European to witness the uses of cocoa during a voyage but didn't act on the discovery. Then, in 1528, Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes established a plantation in Spain's name. In time, the Spanish begin adding cane sugar and flavorings such as vanilla to their sweet beverages. In 1585,the first official shipments of cocoa beans began arriving in Seville and the delicacy quickly spread across Europe, such that by the mid-1600's "Chocolate houses" become fashionable meeting places. The invention in 1732 of a table mill for grinding cacao made chocolate production easier and more affordable. In 1824, John Cadbury opens a grocery store in Birmingham, England, grinding and selling his own cacao bean, thereby laying the groundwork for the Cadbury empire.
Chocolate was introduced to the United States in the late 1765 when Irish chocolate-maker, John Hannon, imported cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts He began refining them with the help of American Dr. James Baker and the pair soon built America's first chocolate mill; by 1780 the mill was making the famous BAKER'S chocolate. Further advances followed over the next century: in 1849 Domingo Ghiradelli began selling chocolate to miners, thus beginning Ghiradelli chocolates; Swiss chocolatier, Rudolph Lindt, used a machine to produce a smooth chocolate he called "fondant"; Milton Hershey purchased Geman-made chocolate equipment and produced the first Hershey bar and the first Hershey's "Kiss"; in 1922 H. B. Reese, a former Hershey employee, used Hershey's chocolate to create the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. And then, in 1930, the chocolate chip cookie was inadvertently created by Ruth Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, who, having run out of baking chocolate, decided to add chunks of a Nestle bar to her cookie dough. In the years since, many of these companies have merged, forming food conglomerates that sell everything from beverages to boxed chocolate. The competition for dominance over your tastebuds continues!
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