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Those searching for premium quality chocolate often plump for luxurious Belgian or Swiss chocolate products… but did you know that some of the most delicious chocolate in the world actually comes from the Netherlands?
The history of the chocolate bar
Before the sixteenth century, cacao or cocoa was entirely unheard of in Europe. That all changed after Spanish explorers discovered South America, and along with it a dark brown drink made from cacao, which the Aztecs called “xocoatl” (strong water). The conquistadors later brought this cacao back to Europe, where the exotic chocolate drink rapidly won favour with the wealthy. Up until the beginning of the nineteenth century the sought-after chocolate drink was made from the pulp of ground cocoa beans, which were pressed into tablets or small blocks that could be readily dissolved in water or milk. The resulting drink was rather bitter and, as such, the chocolate tablets were totally unsuitable for the manufacture of chocolate bars. That was until Dutch cocoa manufacturer, Van Houten, introduced a new ‘Dutch method’ for processing cocoa in 1823. Their technique involved pressing and heating cocoa butter into a fine cocoa powder that happened to make an ideal base for chocolate milk, chocolate bars and chocolates. As this cocoa powder was much less bitter than before, chocolate products rapidly became popular with the wider Dutch public and quickly went on to take the world by storm. Which means that the chocolate that we now know and love, was in fact a typical Dutch invention!
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, cocoa prices began to decline and cocoa production subsequently increased. Chocolate factories sprung up all over Europe, in England, France and Germany, and of course, Switzerland and Belgium. In the Netherlands it was the province of Zeeland that saw the biggest number of chocolate factories, and whilst very few of these survive today, the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, still remains one of the world’s most important cocoa ports.
Famous Dutch chocolate brands include:
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then visit our sister blog, Heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants.