The Indian Cocoa Story
The British East India Company brought Criollo cocoa beans to present day Tamil Nadu and Kerala from the Amboyna Island of Indonesia. Initially, the consumers were mainly Europeans based in India.
Post Independence (1947), the Central Government launched a joint initiative with Cadbury of England to expand cocoa cultivation in India. At first, Criollo beans were cultivated and Forastero cocoa plants were later brought in from West Africa.
The Kerala Connection
In the early 1970s, global cocoa prices soared and many plantations in Kerala began cultivating the trees. Existing Criollo trees were removed to avoid cross pollination. But when the prices suddenly dropped, most of the cocoa planters moved to rubber and other crops. A few plantations in Kerala continue to produce cocoa in the green state.
The Evolution of Chocolate
Around the 15th Century, the Spaniards arrived in the Americas (New World) to find the natives consuming a bitter drink devoid of sugar or flavour enhancement. The Aztecs called it ‘xocolatl’ and the Mayans ‘cacao’. The Spanish preferred the name xocolatl as cacao had an unpleasant meaning in their language. Cocoa beans made it to Spanish shores in 1585 and the Europeans further improved the drink by introducing cane sugar, honey, vanilla and other sweeteners and flavours. It wasn’t until the 19th Century, that the texture and flavour of chocolate was developed to resemble what we eat today.
The Chocolate Timeline