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From Ancient Elixirs to Tunnock's Treats: Unwrapping Chocolate's Rich History

by Gillian Kyle 05 Mar 2024 0 Comments
From Ancient Elixirs to Tunnock's Treats: Unwrapping Chocolate's Rich History

If you know me personally (and heck, even if you don’t), you’ll probably know that I’m a massive chocolate lover. And as you’re here too, I’m going to guess that many of you feel similarly. So, hello, fellow chocolate lovers!

As Easter approaches and chocolate enters centre stage I thought it might be fun to take a look at the history of this indulgent treat - from ancient Mesoamerica to modern day Scotland.

Let’s dive in!

In the Beginning: The Early Symphony of Cocoa

Our journey through the annals of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica, where the Mayans and Aztecs crafted a frothy, spiced beverage known as "xocolātl." It wasn't the silky chocolate bars we're accustomed to today, but rather a divine concoction of cocoa beans, chilli peppers, and a hint of vanilla. Used in religious ceremonies and even as currency, chocolate had already woven itself into the tapestry of ancient civilizations.

The Cacao Ceremony is a sacred practice that still goes on today, where participants gather to sip on a specially prepared cacao elixir, acknowledging the plant’s connection to the heart and it’s potential for healing and introspection. It's a reminder that, beyond the delectable tastes and textures, chocolate has been a source of reverence and ritual throughout time.

A European Interlude: Chocolate Crosses the Sea

Fast forward to the 16th century, and chocolate makes its way to Europe through the Spanish conquistadors. Initially a beverage for the elite, chocolate remained a guarded secret until its sweet allure could no longer be contained. The luxurious elixir began to spread across the European continent, gradually transforming from a frothy drink to a solid form.

The 19th Century Unwraps Solid Chocolate: A Sweeter World Emerges

In the 19th century, the introduction of solid chocolate by pioneering chocolatiers like Cadbury marked a significant turning point. The chocolate bars we recognise today emerged, bringing affordable luxury to the masses. Enter the era of milk chocolate, adding a creamy dimension to the once intense cocoa flavour.

The 20th century, in it’s turn, ushered in a golden age for chocolate. The chocolate landscape expanded, offering an array of treats that became synonymous with joy and indulgence. Chocolatiers became household names across the globe (Cadbury’s, Hershey’s, Toblerone, Lindt and so many more) and the whimsical creations of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka captivated the imagination of children and adults alike - and is still doing just that in 2024!

The Modern Cadence: Artisanal Chocolatiers and Craft Chocolate

But alongside the big business chocolatiers, a bean-to-bar revolution has also taken place, with artisanal chocolatiers and craft chocolate makers redefining the chocolate experience. High-quality beans, unique flavour combinations, and a dedication to craftsmanship have elevated chocolate to an art form which reflects some of the significance and meaning of it’s sacred origins.

Thomas Tunnock Ltd: A Scottish Chocolate Interlude

At this point in the chocolate timeline, we pop back to Scotland and find ourselves on familiar (and delicious) territory.

Home to the iconic Tunnock's Tea Cake and Caramel Wafer, Thomas Tunnock Ltd, founded in 1890, has been crafting all sorts of confectionary and treats for over a century. The Tunnock's Tea Cake, with its fluffy marshmallow centre, biscuity base and delicious chocolate coating, and it’s crisper, chewier sibling, the iconic Caramel Wafer have become nostalgic symbols of Scottish comfort and hospitality.

Tunnock’s itself has become an iconic Scottish brand. A family owned business who’s state of the art production methods are swaddled in a reassuring blanket of tradition and history. Did you know that more then 7 million Caramel Wafers are made and sold every single week? Walking round the factory is simultaneously like stepping back in time and seeing the future, and factory tours are booked out years in advance. A sort of genuine Scottish Willy Wonka experience, to make the recent House of Illuminati debacle in Glasgow look even more ridiculous (if that were possible)!

A Symphony in Every Bite: Chocolate's Timeless Tale

As we conclude our journey through the rich history of chocolate, we find ourselves enveloped in the warmth of tradition, innovation, and pure indulgence. From the ancient elixirs of Mesoamerica to the artisanal wonders of today, chocolate's evolution mirrors the diverse chapters of human history. In Scotland, Thomas Tunnock Ltd has etched its own sweet legacy with the beloved Tunnock's Tea Cake and Caramel Wafer.

So, whether you're sipping on a cup of hot cocoa, unwrapping a Tunnock's delight, or savouring a chocolate bunny this Easter, here's to the enduring magic of the cacao bean and it’s amazing ability to lift the human spirit and spread a little joy!

Till next time, 

PS If you liked this blog, you'll love our fully licensed Tunnock's range of goodies! Check them out here.


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