During the last half-century the consumption of cocoa in various forms has increased to an extraordinary extent, both in this country and Great Britain. This is due to several causes, among the most prominent of which are, (i) a reduction in the retail price, which brings it within the means of the poorer classes ; (2) a more general recognition of the value of cocoa as an article of diet, and (3) improvements in methods of preparation, by which it is adapted to the wants of different classes of consumers.
There is no doubt that, if it had not been for the monopoly of the production which Spain long possessed, and which kept the price, on its first introduction into England, at a point where only the rich could afford to buy it, cocoa would have come into as general use there as it did in Spain, and would, perhaps, have been received with more favor than tea or coffee, which were introduced about the same time.
It appears that, in the time of Charles II., the price of the best chocolate (very crude, undoubtedly, as compared with the present manufactures), was 6s. 8d. a pound, which, if we take into account the greater purchasing power of money at that time, would be equal to at least $5 a pound at this time for a coarse compound.
Humboldt estimated the consumption of cocoa in Europe, in 1806, at 23,000,000 pounds per annum, of which from 6,000,000 to 9,000,000 were supposed to be consumed in Spain. From the latest official returns of imports and consumption in the principal countries it appears that over 70,000,000 pounds are now used. France heads the list with 26,750,250 pounds; Spain comes next, with 16,450,000; England consumes 13,966,512; the Netherlands, 5,475,000; Germany, about 3,250,000, and Belgium, 1,245,000. The United States stands next to Great Britain in the list of consumers, the amount of crude cocoa entered for consumption last year being about 8,500,000 pounds. The returns of exportations from the countries in which the article is produced are so incomplete that it is impossible to state definitely the total amount exported; but it is probably not far from 80,000,000 pounds per annum. Reckoning the consumption in the countries where it is raised at not less than 20,000,000 pounds, it may safely be assumed that the total annual product does not fall short of 100,000,000 pounds.
While the average price of the raw product has steadily increased during the last thirty years (from 47s. per cwt., between 1854-60, to 74s. between 1881-84), the retail price of the prepared cocoa has fallen. This is due to improvements in machinery and methods of handling, and to the sharp competition between the leading manufacturers.
In 1820 the quantity of cocoa entered for home consumption in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was only 267,321 pounds; in 1884 it amounted to 13,966,512 pounds of crude cocoa, and 1,033,173 pounds of chocolate, - in all about 15,000,000 pounds, an increase of 5,500 per cent, in sixty-four years. The population, in the meantime, had increased only 73 3/4 Per cent. ; the use of tea had increased only 457 per cent., and of coffee only 356 per cent. During the last twenty1 Mulhall's (English) Price Lists.
five years the consumption of cocoa and its products in the United Kingdom has increased about 230 per cent. The consumption per inhabitant is about 63/5 oz.
In the United States the increased consumption in recent years has been no less striking. The amount of cocoa retained for home consumption in 1860 was only 1,181,054 pounds ; in 1885 it was 8,426,787 pounds (that is, cocoa, crude cocoa and shells, not including chocolate, which is classed, in the official returns of imports, under the general head of "farinaceous articles"), - an increase of 614 per cent, in twenty-five years. The population increased during that period less than 60 per cent. The consumption of tea increased 153 per cent., and of coffee 196 per cent.
In view, therefore, of the great and constantly increasing use of this product, its properties and supply become questions of the highest economic and hygienic importance. For the purpose of satisfying the desire for information upon a subject which is of such general interest we have collected, from the most authentic sources, such facts in relation to the growth of the cacao-tree, the preparation of its fruit for the market, and the value of the different preparations for dietary purposes, as may serve to increase the common stock of knowledge in regard to one of the staple articles of food.