In times of happiness, sorrow, excitement and boredom, chocolate is our refuge in today’s world. If you want to apologize to someone or want to gift a stranger something, chocolate is often the first go to option. When we hear the word ‘sweet’, chocolate is almost always the first thought to pop into our heads. However, ironically, chocolate was no originally sweet and there was never any sugar used in its preparation. How then did the evolution of chocolate occur? Where do we get this unending stock of our comfort food from?
History of the cacao bean
Chocolate or cocoa powder comes from the cacao plant in the form of beans. The use of these beans have evolved over time; originally, the beans were discarded and the sweet pulp of the cacao fruit surrounding the bean was used to make an alcoholic beverage. Later, the beans began to assume value and were used for a while in pre-modern Latin America as a form of currency.
The cacao bean was considered to be a bearer of divine powers and was hence worshipped by the Mayans and Aztecs. Sacrifice victims were given a gourd of chocolate before their death as a sign of respect. Later on, the chocolate drink spread to the Europeans who disliked the bitter taste and added sugar to the recipe, giving birth to sweetened chocolate. The drink was then ascribed a sign of status and was also believed to be a strong aphrodisiac. By 1828, cocoa powder came into being which led to the making of chocolate bars leading in turn to the birth of our beloved Cadbury, in 1868.
Today, the chocolate industry in America is a 4-billion dollar industry which is attributed to the chocolate revolution of the modern world; a growing interest in high quality, handmade and sustainable chocolate, effecting cacao farming and harvest methods.
With the onset of the chocolate revolution, there was a spike in the number of “connoisseurs” of chocolate. More people enjoyed returning to the original handmade authenticity of chocolate and there was a growth in the handmade chocolate industry as well. More homemade endeavours began and places that were famed for their chocolate industries began to grow as a chocolate market with more and more households committing to this notion of their hometowns. Chocolates of all sizes, shapes and consistencies are manufactured by hand and sold on the basis of individual orders. The advantage of handmade chocolate is that it can be customized to the individual’s taste and requirement and is hence considered a great customizable gift for loved ones.
In India, the homemade chocolate industry, like many of our other local industries, is extremely popular. They export chocolates to Europe and other Asian countries as well and have grown in fame over the last few decades. One such town is that of Kodaikanal in South India.
Chocolate Industry in Kodaikanal
Chocolate has ruled the hearts of Indians ever since 1947, when Cadbury first stepped foot in the country. Cacao cultivation in India first began in Wayanad, a small city in the state of Kerala, in 1965. This led to a growth in the chocolate industry in Kerala, with a spread of the industry from the 1970’s onward. It slowly spread to the neighbouring southern states, one of the largest contributors to the industry being Tamil Nadu. In 2008, there was a partnership initiated between Kerala Agricultural University and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University for the promotion of cacao cultivation in these states. However, even before this, owing to British rule of India, chocolate was a popular drink in the cities where British control was highest.
Kodaikanal is the only hill station in India that was developed originally by the Americans. In 1845, it was named a hill station by American missionaries as it provided refuge from the sweltering heat of the plains and plateau. It also occupied interest due to the variety of plant species found here. One such discovery of a plant that was not previously known in India was the cacao plant. As a result, the cacao bean gained value in Kodaikanal even before the revolutionizing of chocolate began, thus giving Kodaikanal a seeming headstart in the chocolate industry.
Today, Kodaikanal is home to some of the biggest chocolate producing factories in India, namely the SV and SG cottage industries, and the Kodai chocolate factory. It is also home to a large number of small homemade chocolate factories that act as a huge tourist attraction. From coffee bean chocolates to fruit flavoured chocolate to chocolate layered with nuts, you’ll find it all in Kodaikanal.
A visit to Pot Luck, Cloud Street, Chocolate Factory or SG Cottage Industries will be the highlight of your trip to Kodaikanal due to the sheer variety of chocolates these places present. There are also a number of eateries that serve amazing chocolate delicacies.
So plan a trip with your family this winter and have a chocolate filled Christmas and New Year. After all, what is a Christmas vacation without an excess of chocolate? Get your reservations as Sterling’s resorts Kodai – By the Lake and Kodai – By the Valley and give your family their much deserved break from the tiring routines of everyday life!