History of Chocolate Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Chocolate is a treat that many people all over the world enjoy today. Come learn about this delicious delight, how old it is, what kind of plant it comes from, and some other cool facts that you probably didn't know about chocolate.

What is Chocolate?

Imagine going back in time to an unfamiliar place with people speaking a language you've never heard. In a gesture of friendship, their leader offers you a drink and it smells like chocolate. You take a big gulp, expecting it to be sweet. Instead, it's bitter! You've just tasted chocolate, but it's nothing like the chocolate we know today.

Chocolate is a food made from cacao (pronounced kuh-KAY-oh) seeds that is made into candy or used as a flavoring. The cacao tree grows pods that hold seeds, also called beans, which are whitish and slick. These slippery beans look nothing like the chocolate candy you like to eat, but they are the most important ingredient!

Cacao Pod with Seeds
Cacao Pod with Seeds

The beans go through many steps, like a recipe, until they are dried, ground up, and ready to be made into some of your favorite chocolate-y delights!

Dried Cacao Beans
Dried Cacao Beans

In the Beginning

But chocolate didn't start out as the sweet treat you think of today. Scientists aren't sure exactly when chocolate was first developed, but they have found cacao deposits on clay dishes that may be as old as 1400 B.C.E. And they even think it may even go back as far as 4,000 years!

Two different ancient groups of people called the Mayans and Aztecs used the cacao beans in the 16th century to make a bitter drink that was used for special occasions. They even thought it had magic powers, but it was nothing like the hot cocoa you slurp down on a cold winter day.

You may have seen chocolate candy coins wrapped in foil, but you can't spend them. However, cacao beans were very valuable to the Aztecs. They even used them like money to buy things, the way your mom buys food at the grocery store. Scientists found Aztec records that listed the price of a turkey at 100 beans.

A Sweet Change

When the explorers from Europe landed in Central and South America, they first tasted the chocolate drink and thought it was disgusting and only fit for pigs.

In order to make it sweet and better tasting, Europeans added honey and sugar to it. Soon it was very trendy in Spain and all over Europe by the 17th century. But it was only available for wealthy people.

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