Posted in Kafevend Blog

Following on from our article on the history of Cadbury last week, we thought we might delve further into one of the company's top products- milk chocolate. As one of the most popular forms of chocolate on the market and one that makes a good accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee, just how did this sweet treat originate?

To understand how milk chocolate came about, it helps to go back and consider cocoa's earliest consumers- the various Mesoamerican peoples who lived in Central America where the cocoa bearing tree, theobroma cacao, comes from. The original cocoa drinks made by civilizations such as the Mayans and Aztecs were fairly bitter affairs; cocoa beans were ground up and mixed into water, along with chilli for flavouring, and then frothed up, either by pouring the drink from a height repeatedly or by using a whisk. This drink and the beans that made it were valuable, particularly so for the Aztecs who used cocoa beans as a form of currency.

When the Spanish encountered the drink during their conquering and colonising of The New World in the 16th century, they weren't quite as enamoured of the drink as the Aztecs were. It didn't stop them from experimenting with it however, and they had soon made the drink more to their liking by adding sugar to the mix. It proved popular back in Europe and the social elite were soon indulging in hot cocoa drinks sweetened with sugar or honey.

A common tale of how milk came to be added to the cocoa drink involves a British physician called Hans Sloane. Apparently, whilst visiting Jamaica at the end of the 17th century he witnessed sick babies being fed the original Aztec version of the drink. He felt that the addition of milk would serve as a useful supplement for nutrition. An altenative and somewhat less flattering version of the story says that he found the drink nauseating, but more appetizing when using milk. Whether either of these tales are true or not, milk was soon a feature in drinking chocolate, and Sloane's name was attributed to one of the leading brands on sale in England.

It was quite some time before chocolate bars emerged during the middle of the 19th century, but not so long for someone to find a way of adding milk to this new fangled invention. It was achieved by a Swiss man named Daniel Peters. He realised that liquid milk could never be mixed into a chocolate bar- the high water content made this impossible. What was needed was some sort of dry milk, if such a thing could exist. Handily, he worked next door to a man named Henri Néstle who had found a way to make condensed milk- milk which has had the water removed. The pair began working together and by 1875 had released milk chocolate to the world, or at least, that part which could afford it. Other companies like Cadbury were quick to follow suit in creating their own varieties of milk chocolate. Since then, milk chocolate has become the most popular type of chocolate available.

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