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Coffee vs. Chocolate

Which arrived in the United States first?

Credit: fcafotodigital

I love coffee almost as much as I love chocolate. Now, I drink about two cups of coffee a day, whereas chocolate is more of holiday thing. I buy chocolate for Valentine's, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas. Then again, when it's on sale after the holidays, too. I know I can't survive without either of my favorite vices for any length of time.

I'm also a history lover and truly enjoy learning new things like the origins of our favorite holidays. This got me thinking (which is always a dangerous thing)—which came to the United States first? Coffee or chocolate?

Coffee Beans

No one knows exactly the history of coffee: when it was discovered or how it was discovered. The one certain thing is that coffee had its origins in Ethiopia, only because of a legend that came from that region concerning a goat herder named Kaldi. 

According to legend, Kaldi happened upon a tree that bore berries that his goats loved to eat. Afterwards, he noticed they were considerably more energetic. So energetic his poor goats refused to go to sleep. 

Kaldi was excited about his discovery, so he shared it with the abbot of a local monastery. The monk decided to try the berries himself and discovered that the drink kept him alert for hours. He, of course, shared this great news with the other monks and soon that knowledge began its travel east to the Arabian peninsula.

Coffee was cultivated, harvested, and traded on the Arabian peninsula. By the 15th century coffee beans were being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia, and by the 16th century, it was being grown in Persia, Syria, Egypt, and Turkey.

Coffee became an important part of middle east life. It was the start of coffee being at the center of everyday life. People meeting over coffee, playing chess, or just visiting over coffee. Coffee became known as "the wine of Araby."

The word of this dark beverage spread to Europe by the 17th century. It arrived in New York in the mid-1600s, but it was a slow sell on those already heavy tea drinkers. It wasn't until 1773, when colonists were protesting the heavy taxation on tea by King George III, that they dumped the tea into the Boston Harbor. 

It came to be known as the Boston tea party and changed Americans' beverage choice forever. Coffee is now one of the most sought after commodities of the world.

Hot Chocolate

Credit: rawpixel @rawpixel

There were actually two invasions of chocolate to the United States. The first invasion was drinking chocolate. The ancient Mesopotamians first cultivated the cacao plants that flourished in Central America. 

The origin of the word "chocolate" was traced to a Aztec word "xocoatl," which refers to the bitter drink brewed from cacao beans. What many people don't realize is that chocolate brewed from the cacao beans is actually bitter. It isn't sweet at all. 

Sweetened chocolate was accidentally discovered when Europeans first discovered Central America and were offered the drink. Its dark bitter taste didn't go over well with these visiting Spanish conquerors. To soften the taste, they mixed sugar and honey in with the drink and it took.

Drinking chocolate sweetened with sugar and honey swept Europe by the 17th century. Chocolate became quite the fashionable drink in Europe, but it remained the drink of the rich until the technology of mass production came into being.

It was a Dutch chemist that was able to take powdered chocolate and turn it into a bar of chocolate. In 1847, a little known English company known as Cadbury was making boxes of chocolate candies in England. 

Today, many have heard of Cadbury's Easter eggs as well as other known Cadbury chocolate bars. In fact, chocolate has turned into such a lucrative market that in America alone, it has become a 4-billion dollar a year business. You now have Hershey's chocolate, Mars, M&M's, and numerous others.

Well, we now know how both chocolate and coffee made it to the American market, but which arrived first? Chocolate or coffee? 

It seems chocolate arrived first. Newly discovered evidence found remnants of chocolate in Pueblo Bonito located in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. These pueblo people lived in Chaco Canyon between 860 and 1128 A.D. Anthropologists analyzed pottery shard remains and discovered trace amounts of Theobromine, which is an important compound that indicates cacao is present.

Coffee didn't arrive in the United States until the 15th century, while chocolate made its debut between 860 and 1128 A.D. over three hundred before coffee made its arrival.

So, when you are having a cup of coffee or cup of chocolate, remember that you are also drinking in a little bit of history with each sip.

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