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What is Cacao? A Brief History of Chocolate

Cacao, used in our very own Muscle Up bars, is a pure form of chocolate. Valentine’s Day is nearing, so let's talk about chocolate, the February holiday connection, and it’s history!

Chocolate has been considered aphrodisiac food since the time of Aztecs. It was believed that chocolate could rouse desire and make the beloved more open to romance. This resulted in the tradition in European royalty giving their lovers chocolates mixed with amber to stimulate their love.

Today there is still an allure of chocolate that is romantic. It’s simply an edible declaration of love that makes the recipients feel special. The chocolate looks and tastes heavenly and is undeniably gratifying.

It all started in Latin America

Chocolate's 4,000-year history began in ancient Mesoamerica, present day Mexico. Chocolate is made from the fruit, also known as pods, of native cacao trees. Beans from the pods are dried and roasted with high heat processing to create cocoa beans. Cocoa 

The earliest civilizations in Latin America, were the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate. They drank their chocolate during rituals and used it as medicine. The chocolate of today is little like the chocolate of the past. Throughout much of history, chocolate was a revered but bitter beverage, not a sweet, edible treat.

Chocolate reaches Spain

No one knows for sure when chocolate came to Spain. Legend has it that explorer Hernán Cortés brought chocolate to his homeland in 1528. As travelers from countries such as Italy and France visited Central America, they also learned about cacao and brought chocolate back to their countries.

A Chocolate Revolution

Chocolate remained immensely popular among European aristocracy. They consumed chocolate for its health benefits as well as its decadence.

The chocolate press revolutionized chocolate making in 1828. This innovative device could squeeze cocoa butter from roasted cacao beans, leaving a fine cocoa powder behind. The cocoa powder was then mixed with liquids and poured into a mold, where it solidified into an edible bar. And just like that, the modern era of chocolate was born and the delicious treat was enjoyed by all classes.  

By the late 19th century and early 20th century, family chocolate companies such as Cadbury, Mars, Nestle and Hershey were mass-producing a variety of chocolate confections to meet the growing demand for the sweet treat. 

Chocolate Today

While your average chocolate bar isn’t considered healthy, dark chocolate has earned its place as a ❤️ - healthy, antioxidant-rich treat. Our favorite chocolate makers offer some scrumptious options: and 

And, of course, you can always find yummy treats made with cacao, the healthiest kind of chocolate, in Muscle Up Bar’s flavors: Cacao & Vanilla or Peanut Butter with Cacao Nibs. No wonder so many people LOVE our bars!



A Brief History of Chocolate.

Chocolate Use in Early Aztec Cultures. International Cocoa Association.

History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the Colonies. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

The Bittersweet History of Chocolate. Time.

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