I live in a land of chocolate: the southeast corner of Pennsylvania. Hershey is an hour to the west, and Godiva has its only plant outside of Belgium in my town of Reading. There’s a Lindt store down in Pottstown, and Wilbur, famous for its Buds, is in Lititz. Besides those giants of the sweet and semi-sweet, there are myriad chocolateries dotting the countryside. According to Pennsylvania Heritage, 80 percent of cocoa beans imported to the US come in through the port of Philadelphia.
We have a lot of chocolate here, and I’m in love.
The earliest documented use of chocolate as a food and drink dates back to the Olmecs in Mesoamerica, according to Smithsonian Magazine. It came in the form of a mostly bitter liquid extracted from the beans of the cacao tree. Spanish conquistadors took it back to Europe where it was eventually sweetened with cane sugar. It quickly went viral in an old-fashioned word-of-mouth way.
The product came to my area in the time of Benjamin Franklin, and Swiss and German immigrants ensured it found a place in the local culture. By the 1900s, Milton Hershey had started creating signature products in Lancaster.