Legends stand on the shoulders of those who came before them, and those whose work, individually and collectively, has uniquely impacted the world of cocoa and chocolate. Without them, chocolate as we know it today, might be very different. The following is a list of legendary figures in the history of chocolate:
Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon or Cristoforo Colombo) is known to be the first European to report seeing cocoa beans. On his third voyage to the New World in the early sixteenth century, his ship and crew encountered a Mayan trading cacao off the island of Guanaja in the Gulf of Honduras. After some cocoa beans were spilled on the deck of the ship, the reactions of the Mayan traders revealed the high esteem with which the beans were held along with their presumed value.
Dutchman Conrad Van Houten invented the process of alkalizing cocoa to chemically neutralize acidity. He also patented the first hydraulic cocoa butter press, both before 1820.
The Fry family in England were the first to add cocoa butter to chocolate to improve mouth feel in the late 1840s, marking the first modern chocolate bar.
Rodolphe Lindt's accidental discovery of the process of conching completed this revolution in the late 1870s by creating the luscious creamy mouthfeel we know and love.
About this same time, Henri Nestlé and Daniel Peter were collaborating on the commercial manufacture of milk chocolate.
Milton Hershey's genius is not that he made great chocolate. It's that in the mid-1890s, he made chocolate affordable to anyone and everyone for the first time. This was due, in part, to new manufacturing machinery made possible by the Industrial Revolution, but also through the replacement of expensive cocoa with much cheaper milk and sugar.
With a nod to these famous figures in chocolate history, The Legends of Chocolate Awards program was created to honor those whose work significantly impacts our contemporary world of chocolate.