Cocoa history and stories

Cocoa history and stories

Cocoa history and stories





It seems incredible, but we know from anthropological studies that the cocoa tree and therefore the use of its fruits dates back to 6000 years ago!

The extraordinary history of cocoa

Theobroma (not surprisingly: food of the gods) was classified by Linnaeus in 1775. It is an evergreen plant native to the tropical forests of central and south America; it needs constant temperature and humidity. The tree reaches a height of up to 8 meters.

The large, green leaves are thick, and the flowers have a pink and white color. The fruits or berries, called cabosse, reddish brown in color, reach up to 30cm in length. Inside, a sweet and sour pulp contains up to about 40 seeds, bitter when picked.

From cocoa beans to chocolate

Nature and a lot of work are the actors who will transform the raw cocoa beans into chocolate.

Spontaneous microbial fermentation occurs after the harvest; it will determine the aroma, color and taste of the chocolate. It takes place in tanks or pits for at least 10 days.

Drying is usually carried out in the sun to stop fermentation.

Toasting at 120/140°C eliminates humidity and acidity and fulfills the development of the aroma.

The fatty part of the cocoa (cocoa butter) is then extracted and refined to make it velvety on the palate.

In conching, the fluid mass is kept at 80°C in vats for 3 days and stirred constantly, to allow acids and fat to evaporate.

… And chocolate is served!

The varieties of cocoa

There are various types of cocoa; 85% of the production is from Forastero, with classic bitter characteristics and a strong taste, with purple seeds and with a higher yield.

Trinitario cocoa (hybrid of Forastero and Criollo) represents about 10% of world production and Criollo cocoa with white, fragrant and delicate seeds is very rare but qualitatively better and represents about 5% (never hybridized, is more prone to parasites and diseases).

There are several varieties of Criollo cocoa, among which the most prized are Porcelana, Chuao, Guasare, Puertomar, Ocumare.

Based on historical studies, it seems that the Mayans were the first to use cocoa as a food, although they only tasted it as a drink. In Europe it first arrived in Spain after the discovery of America.

In Tuscany, cocoa arrived in the 17th century thanks to the Florentine merchant Carletti Francesco d'Antonio and soon it successfully reached the Medici family where the court physician, Francesco Redi, delighted them with various recipes, including that of chocolate with jasmine.

Although cocoa has been appreciated as a miraculous medicine in the past centuries, scientific research has confirmed its beneficial properties for our health only in recent decades.

Cocoa is rich in flavonoids, renowned natural antioxidants; it contains mineral salts such as magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, copper, selenium, B vitamin, amino-acids.

Its benefits are many (we refer to dark chocolate):

  • reduces the level of cholesterol
  • has a protective effect on the cardiovascular system
  • anti-aging effect
  • natural antidepressant (thanks to the stimulation of serotonin)
  • stimulating effect (thanks to theobromine).

Chocolate at Enoteca Alessi


Perugina is a historical brand of Italian confectionery products founded in Perugia on 30 November 1907 with the name Società Perugina for the Manufacture of Confetti. The partners are Francesco Buitoni, Annibale Spagnoli and his wife Luisa, Leone Ascoli and Francesco Andreani.
Given the poor development of the confectionery industrial sector in Italy, the Perugina company is therefore one of the largest companies, even if its not high degree of specialization configures it as a still semi-artisan activity.

The First World War caused various effects on the company's business, such as the limitation of raw materials, but also the expansion of production, in 1917, for Perugina cocoa.

In the first post-war period, the emergence of growth immediately required an expansion of production capacity and, at the same time, the adjustment of the commercial network. In 1922, what will become the historical product of the company was born, or the Kiss: Luisa Spagnoli, using excess chocolate and hazelnut grains not used in the factory during the day, invents a heart of gianduia and hazelnut grains, or a chocolate similar to the knuckle of a hand which is given the nickname "Cazzotto" which Giovanni Buitoni will later rename Bacio.

It is at the beginning of the 1920s that one of the specialties of the Perugina tradition dates back, a fruit excluded from the majority of Italians by price and availability: the "Banana Perugina" with a unique shape and taste, a wise sinuous contrast between internal sweetness and an exquisite chocolate coating dark.

Perugina became, already in the 1920s, one of the major exporters of confectionery products and was the first Italian company in the sector to apply the techniques of scientific work organization between 1926 and 1929, increasing productivity and decreasing strength work employed.

Beginning in 1935, Perugina products are launched in America, in New York, on Fifth Avenue. Since 1954, the production of chocolate has diversified towards more mass products. The sale of loose chocolates, tablets and cheaper packs begins.

In 1997 the Perugina Historical Museum was born from the rich Perugina-Buitoni archive, followed in 2007 by the Chocolate House on the occasion of the centenary of Perugina: a unique place in the world, where you can go on an exciting journey, from the Museum to the visit to the Factory , up to the Chocolate School, where to follow the courses of the Master Confectioners to create small masterpieces of goodness.


The company was founded in 1796 in Bologna, under the name of "Laboratory of Sweet Things", by Teresa Majani, one of the first entrepreneurs of the time.
The first solid chocolate produced in Italy was born in 1832 from the ingenuity and passion for innovation of the Majani Family.
The "Scorza", so called because of its resemblance to the bark of the tree, is produced with a machine built specifically for it and becomes a legendary product, still inimitable today.
But it is only the beginning: on the occasion of the Universal Expositions in Paris (1867 and 1878), Vienna (1873) and Milan (1881) the Majani company is recognized as one of the most qualified in Europe.

These are the years in which the company becomes the official supplier of the Royal House of Savoy, in a young Kingdom of Italy.
In 1911, from an advertising initiative commissioned by Giovanni Agnelli for the launch of the Fiat Tipo 4 car, the FIAT Cremino was born, a 4-layer cremino, the most prestigious product of the Bolognese company. Among others, they expressed their appreciation for the product - still in production today - Gabriele D’Annunzio, Guglielmo Marconi, Giosuè Carducci.

On the occasion of the first Italian edition of the Salon du Chocolat in 2011, Majani in the person of Miss Anna Majani receives the "Palme d’Or", for the quality of its products. But not only that: in the same year the award ceremony of 150 centenary companies registered in the register of Italian historical companies was held. Here Majani 1796 SpA receives the "Company that made the history of Italy" plaque.


Pier Paul Caffarel arrives in Turin with a passion for chocolate and the dream of opening his own laboratory. He takes over a small tannery on the edge of the city and creates the laboratory, one of the first chocolate factories in Italy and Europe.

At Caffarel you try to mix cocoa with round and gentle Langhe hazelnuts. The result is a deliciously soft dough that is given a boat shape. The name is "givu", which means butt in Piedmontese dialect. It is the ancestor of the most extraordinary Caffarel invention.

During the revolutionary uprisings of the Risorgimento, the Piedmontese government reduced imports of luxury goods, including chocolate, so Pier Caffarel decided to partially replace chocolate with Piedmontese hazelnuts of the highest quality. During the Turin Carnival of 1865 the picturesque Gianduia, the traditional Turin mask, throws on the party people chocolates never tasted before. They immediately take their name from Gianduia: they are the Gianduiotti; the first chocolates individually wrapped

The King of Italy Vittorio Emanuele II and the Duchess of Genoa Elisabetta of Saxony grant us the coveted patent of Suppliers of the Royal House. The royal coat of arms and the ducal coat of arms begin to appear on our packages of the time.

In 1893 Chicago hosted the Colombian World Fair, organized to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus and Caffarel was awarded the Certificate of Merit for the Purity and Excellence in the Preparation of Chocolate.

But sweetness is never enough, so in 1990 Caffarel began an incredible and diversified production of candies with the same care he has devoted to chocolate for decades.