The origins of cacao are traceable back to 5000 BC in areas of South America, in the Amazon River basin and in Venezuela. Historians have found a small village in the Ulúa valley in Honduras in which cocoa played an important role. But it was the ancient cultures of Olmec’s (1500 BC), Mayas (100 BC) and Aztecs (1325 AD) where chocolate and its drinking had an important spiritual and cultural role. At that time the chocolate was known and prepared as a very bitter hot forty drink from the cacao beans possibly also with spices like pepper or chilli. The shamans of the tribes believed that chocolate and its consumption had magical and even divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage or death.

Etymologists believe that word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec word "xocoatl," which referred to a bitter drink. The Latin name for the cacao tree, "Theobroma cacao", means food of the gods. The year 1527 was a crucial moment in the history of chocolate as the Spanish explorer and one of Columbus' ambassadors, Hernan Cortes, met the Aztec Emperor Montezuma. He was convinced that the fair-skinned bearded man, Cortes, is their god and saviour Quetzalcoatl returning from the wilderness. Cortes originally came to discover gold, but he was showered with gifts including cocoa. Several years later Cortes brought the cocoa beans and the habit of drinking chocolate back to Spain. As the taste pallet of the Spanish royal court and its nobility was used to different flavours, they decided to sweeten up the treat with some honey or dark sugar. So this was the first significant change for chocolate and its original bitter tasting origins.

Spain kept the secret of chocolate for about a century for their own culture, however during 17the century, the fondness for chocolate quickly spread throughout most of Europe. It was a privilege of rich families and social clubs to enjoy a cup of chocolate. Later on the chocolate was mostly drunk for its physical and mood enhancing qualities, and it became one of the most important medicines in the apothecaries’ medicine chest. Read more about the health effects of chocolate, here (link). In 1828 the first cacao powder was created, a Dutch chemist Van Houten found a way to removing cacao butter from chocolate liquor. His product became known as "Dutch cocoa," with a mixture with alkaline salts to cut the bitter taste. In 1847 Joseph Fry invented a way of mixing cocoa butter with chocolate liquor and sugar to produce the world’s first bars of eating chocolate.

After the First World War and the wave of industrialization, the distribution of chocolate became much easier and accessible to ordinary people. We now have the chance to enjoy a variety of different chocolates with completely different origins. However, not all of them are that healthy and have such high quality as the original chocolate drink. One of the main producers of cacao is the Ivory cost (40%) and Ghana (18%). Latin America now produce only about 13% of the world's cacao.

Reference: http://www.barry-callebaut.com