The Development Of Modern Chocolate

The world’s first chocolates were crude. Most often chocolate was consumed as a ceremonial spiced beverage. Modern chocolate is smooth and melty, a testament to modern machinery and automation. Over 500 years ago, when cacao—the raw material for chocolate— was first exported to Europe, it was minimally and inconsistently processed.

Market monopolies and vertical integration by large businesses have brought about the modern chocolates found in convenience stores around the world. Colonization played a huge role in the development of modern chocolate into this saccharine, global form<.

The Arrival of Chocolate in Europe

Up until the 1800’s, all chocolate was consumed in beverage form. When cacao beans were brought to Spain, and later to other parts of Europe, they were brought alongside spices. The cacao drink continued to be prepared with those spices until the introduction of sugar, which until then had been mostly used in tea. Adding sugar transformed the flavor of cacao beverages into something resembling that of modern chocolate.

Unlike the Spanish, the British didn’t tend to add spices to their drinks, nor did the French. The sweetness mellowed out cacao’s harsher flavors and made it more appealing to all consumers.

The first chocolate bars were a rudimentary creation, a pressing of cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and sugar. Eating chocolate as a food brought the flavor of cacao out from under the thumb of the rich and into the hands of the masses. There weren’t yet machines which could run for days, refining the chocolate until smooth. Perhaps there also wasn't much knowledge about how each of the chocolate processing steps affects flavor.

Innovations in Chocolate Making

Some of the most important innovations for developing modern chocolate have been: the longitudinal conche, powdered milk, cocoa butter press, and standardized post-harvest protocols. The conche is integral in the< chocolate making process, as the machine responsible for taking out much of the harsh acidity and bitterness which characterizes cacao beans. Powdered milk further mellowed out chocolate’s flavor, as well as making it cheaper to manufacture.

The cocoa butter press made it easier to remove the fat from cacao beans, leaving chocolate manufacturers with cacao butter to sell to the cosmetics industry and cocoa powder to sell to the public. This cocoa powder was diluted with sugar and milk powder and sold as hot cocoa mix, bringing the diluted flavor of chocolate to the masses. Chocolate bars continued to get cheaper as cacao cultivation spread to Africa and Asia, and chocolate companies continued to stretch their cacao with fillers.

Standardizing Cacao Processing Protocols

As cacao was grown in more parts of the world, the complex processing necessary to fully develop its flavors didn’t travel with it. Only when large chocolate companies began seeking the highest quality cocoa at the lowest price did they begin spreading cacao processing protocols. Such standardized practices are still not commonplace around the world. But even if they don’t do them, cacao farmers in most countries know about picking only ripe pods, and both fermenting and drying their cacao.

Sugar In Chocolate

Modern chocolate has one other big helper to thank: sugar. The modern chocolate industry wouldn’t be possible without contemporaneous innovations in the sugar industry. The ability to sweeten cacao is one of the most important factors in its palatability and near-obsession from consumers. When cacao drinks were first sweetened with sugar, it came in sugar loaves and had to be snipped off and dissolved in a liquid. With the ability to remove more moisture from sugar, companies could add it to cacao mass without fear of the mass seizing and thickening.

As sugar has been vilified by the media, other sweeteners have stepped in and added variety to the chocolate industry. Vegan, sugar-free, and dairy-free chocolates have opened chocolate up to most every world market. But recently, market demand has started going back to its roots. Those first chocolates made in Europe were developed in a very different context. At the time, the world was still being discovered and many foods were labeled by origin, including cacaos. The first chocolates in Europe were actually single origin chocolates.

While traceability in small-batch chocolate making is nothing new, its ethical sourcing definitely sets it apart from its ancient counterpart

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  • Award Winning Chocolate Makers

    Bar & Cocoa is the premier purveyor of exceptional craft chocolates from award winning chocolate makers. We hand pick exceptional makers.

  • Ethically Sourced

    Ethics is a key ingredient to the world’s best chocolate. Our selection supports a supply chain that is more transparent than fair trade — and tastier!

  • Fine & Rare Origins

    We showcase chocolate crafted from fine quality cacao. You can taste the uniqueness and complexity of different origins, unlike mass-produced chocolate.


What makes Bar & Cocoa different?

At Bar & Cocoa, we're not just another chocolate shop; we're a chocolate experience. We meticulously curate a selection of the finest chocolates from artisanal makers around the globe. Our focus is on quality, ethical sourcing, and sustainability. We go the extra mile to educate our customers about the complexities of cacao cultivation and chocolate making through detailed product descriptions, flavor profiles, and origin stories. When you shop with us, you're not just indulging in a treat; you're becoming part of a community that values the art and science of chocolate making.

What is bean to bar chocolate?

Bean to bar chocolate is chocolate that is made from scratch by the same producer, starting from the raw cacao beans and ending with the finished chocolate bars and treats. This process allows the chocolate maker to control every aspect of the chocolate making, such as roasting, grinding, conching, tempering, and molding. Bean to bar chocolate is often more flavorful, nuanced, and ethical than mass-produced chocolate. It reflects the artistry and craftsmanship of the maker and the quality and origin of the cacao.

How do you source your chocolate? Is it ethical and sustainable?

We source our chocolate from award winning craft makers who use high-quality cacao beans and go beyond fair trade. We work with over 50 fine chocolate makers from around the world who share our values and passion for real chocolate. Some of the countries we source our chocolate from include Peru, Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua,, Philippines, India, and many more. We are always on the lookout for new and exciting origins and makers to add to our collection.

Do you have vegan, or keto-friendly or soy free chocolate?

Yes, we do! We have a variety of chocolate options that cater to different dietary preferences and needs. You can browse our collections of organic chocolate, vegan chocolate, keto-friendly chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, dairy-free chocolate, gluten-free chocolate, soy-free chocolate, nut-free chocolate, and more on our website. We also provide detailed information on each product page about the ingredients and allergens of each product.

How do you pick your chocolate makers?

When it comes to selecting our chocolate offerings, we're basically the chocolate sommeliers you never knew you needed. Our process starts with rigorous research and tastings. Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it. We scour the globe for artisanal and craft chocolate makers who share our commitment to quality, ethical sourcing, and innovation in flavor.

We scrutinize everything from cacao origin to production methods and flavor profiles. Only the best of the best make it into our curated collection, offering you a world-class chocolate experience in every bite. Each bar has a story, a unique flavor profile, and the power to transport you to a different part of the globe. We're not just selling chocolate; we're offering an edible journey.