A very brief history of chocolate
Chocolate originated in Central America around 2,000 years ago from the seeds of the cacao tree – Theobroma cacao.
Theo = god & broma = food – means food of the gods
30 – 50 seeds (called beans) are found in a large pod.
It was consumed by the Aztecs & Mayans as a beverage.
Christopher Columbus took the cacao beans back to Spain in the middle of 16th Century and within a hundred years it was established throughout Europe.
Chocolate in Europe was originally a beverage and was sweetened to balance its bitter flavour.
In Spanish it is called is el chocolate which comes from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) word xocolatl or chocolātl …. and so we get czekolada in Polish and chocolate in English.
By the 19th century many processes had been invented which led to the modern solid form of chocolate
Famous Names in Chocolate.
Coenraad Johannes Van Houten, in 1815, introduced alkaline salts to reduce the bitterness & in 1828 reduced the natural fat – cacao butter and produced cocoa powder.
Joseph Fry learnt to make chocolate moldable by adding back the melted cacao butter.
Daniel Peter invented milk chocolate by using powdered milk developed by Henri Nestlé.
Rodolphe Lindt invented the conching (method of mixing and reducing the particle size of cocoa solids) machine.
John Cadbury in 1824 had a grocer’s shop in Birmingham where he prepared ground cocoa. Moving to a factory in 1831.
Milton S. Hershey in 1893 purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
John Mackintosh had a confectionary business in Halifax from 1890.
Henry Isaaac Rowntree had a confectionery business in York in 1862.
Joseph Terry was a confectionery & chocolate maker in York from 1862.
Nowadays roughly two thirds of the world’s cocoa is produced in Western Africa with Côte d’Ivoire being the largest source.
Chocolate in Poland
Chocolate in Poland has been by tradition dark & slightly bitter – it is called gorzka – which means bitter. Recently there has been a move to make milk chocolate. Personally I have not liked the milk chocolate produced in Poland, I much prefer the dark chocolate.
Karol Ernest Wedel (1813 – 1902) came to Poland from Berlin, accompanied by his wife, Karolina and in 1851, set up his own business in Warsaw, originally serving drinking chocolate.
The logo of the company is based on Karol Wedel’s signature.
Thought by many to be the Polish national chocolate brand.
In 1894 the company moved its main factory to another site in Warsaw.
His son Emil Albert Fryderyk Wedel (1841-1919) worked in sweet and chocolate factories in Europe before inheriting and expanding his father’s business.
His descendant Jan Wedel who died in 1960, opened a second factory in 1934 in Praga another area of Warsaw, it was one of the most modern in Poland.
Prior to World War II, Wedel became a successful private company, with shops in London and Paris.
The war devastated Poland and the company.
After the war, Wedel rebuilt the factory, but it was nationalised by the communist government and then re-privatised in 1989 after the fall of communism.
In 1991 it was bought by PepsiCo Foods and Beverages.
In 1999, Cadbury bought E.Wedel and the factory in Praga, from PepsiCo. The Praga factory was modernised in 2007.
In March 2010 Kraft Foods Inc acquired Cadbury plc. The European Commission insisted that Wedel be sold in order for the takeover to go ahead.
It was sold to Lotte of South Korea in June 2010.
Warsaw in the late 1970s
Adam Antoni Piasecki (1873 -1945) Started a confectionery company in 1898 in Kraków naming it Wawel after the Royal Castle in Kraków.
Main Square – rynek główny
At first his small workshop at Długa Street employed five people. His first shop was opened in a tenement house in the Main Square in Kraków and there is still a shop in this area today.
In 1951 three confectionery companies from Kraków merged to form the new Zakłady Przemysłu Cukierniczego Wawel (Wawel Confectionery Plant).
In 1992, as a result of privatisation, Zakłady Przemysłu Cukierniczego Wawel has become a joint stock company.
In 2005, the company changed its name to Wawel SA.
Plums & Chocolate
Candied Plums coated in chocolate with a cocoa cream filling (instead of the plum stone) – I remember this combination from when I was a child & I still love it today.
Many visitors to Poland bring these goodies back for their friends.
These chocolates are made by Solidarność / Goplana whose origins are with Jan Kolański in 1911.