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Coenraad Johannes van Houten

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coenraad Johannes van Houten
Coenraad Johannes van Houten.jpg
Portrait of Coenraad Johannes van Houten
Born15 March 1801
Died27 May 1887
Weesp, Netherlands

Coenraad Johannes van Houten (15 March 1801, Amsterdam – 27 May 1887, Weesp) was a Dutch chemist and chocolate maker known for the treatment of cocoa mass with alkaline salts to remove the bitter taste and make cocoa solids more water-soluble; the resulting product is still called "Dutch process chocolate". He is also credited with introducing a method for pressing the fat (cocoa butter) from roasted cocoa beans, though this was in fact his father's invention.[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Where Does Chocolate Come From?


JACK: Oh, chocolate, why do you taste so good? Where did you come from? Did you just fall out of the sky one day and land in my hands and my heart? What are your secrets? If only I had the knowledge of some sort of, I don't know, kooky man who works in a factory that makes chocolate. Wait a second! Hey, Jack, can I have some of that chocolate? Jack? Jack? Yoo-hoo. It's me Billy Wonka. Bonkers, bonker, Billy bonka of Billy Bonka's Chocolate Factory. Look, I'm a big deal in Europe, alright? And I just so happen to know a thing or two about chocolate. OK, but do you have any actual chocolate? (LAUGHS) (CONTINUES LAUGHING) No. Oh. But I do know a group of people who might be able to help. Let's go back 5,300 years to Central America where the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilisations first discovered cacao beans, which came from the cacao tree. They loved these beans so much they used them in religious ceremonies and as offerings to the gods. Lucky gods. And they even used the beans as a form of money. Although I don't think they looked like these chocolate coins. They also ground roasted cacao beans with water to make a bitter tasting drink called xocolatl. In the 1500s, a Spanish explorer brought the bitter drink back to Spain. At first, they used it to treat upset stomachs. But after mixing it with honey, sugar or something else sweet, they soon discovered it made a very delicious drink. And about 100 years later, the rich people of Europe were drinking it in places called chocolate houses - fancy. Urgh. You were right about it being bitter. Hey, Billy, have you got any of that block stuff? We're getting there. That block stuff was made thanks to an invention by Dutch chemist and chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten. He invented something called the chocolate press in 1828. It was a machine that could separate cacao beans into fat, or cocoa butter, and a powder. Van Houten discovered that when you mixed the powder back with the cocoa butter, you got the solid chocolate we know today. It was not long after that a Swiss chocolatier named Daniel Peter added powdered milk to the mixture, giving us milk chocolate. Today, chocolate factories just like this one... # Anything you want, you'll do it. # OK, maybe not like this one. That's better. Today, chocolate factories like this one use a similar process. Although they have bigger machines that can make all sorts of different chocolate treats for us to enjoy. OK, OK, but can I please have some of those treats now? Amelia, I'm not actually Billy Bonka. I don't own a chocolate factory. It's me, Jack, this is just a wig. Yes, I know. But you were eating chocolate before, can I please have some? No, I wasn't.


Father and son van Houten

Coenraad van Houten was the son of Casparus van Houten (1770–1858) and Arnoldina Koster. His father opened a chocolate factory in Amsterdam in 1815, with a mill turned by laborers. At that time, cocoa beans were ground into a fine mass, which could then be mixed with milk to create a chocolate drink or, with addition of sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, made into cookies.

Cocoa press

In 1828 Casparus van Houten Sr. (and not his son, who is usually credited)[1] patented an inexpensive method for pressing the fat from roasted cocoa beans. The center of the bean, known as the "nib", contains an average of 54 percent cocoa butter, which is a natural fat. Van Houten's machine – a hydraulic press – reduced the cocoa butter content by nearly half. This created a "cake" that could be pulverized into cocoa powder, which was to become the basis of all chocolate products.

The introduction of cocoa powder not only made creating chocolate drinks much easier, but also made it possible to combine the powder with sugar and then remix it with cocoa butter to create a solid, already closely resembling today's eating chocolate.

In 1838 the patent expired, enabling others to produce cocoa powder and build on Van Houten's success, experimenting to make new chocolate products. In 1847 English chocolate maker J. S. Fry & Sons produced arguably the first chocolate bar. Later developments were in Switzerland, where Daniel Peter introduced milk chocolate in 1875 and Rodolphe Lindt made chocolate more blendable by the process of conching in 1879.

Dutch process chocolate

Coenraad Van Houten introduced a further improvement by treating the powder with alkaline salts (potassium or sodium carbonates) so that the powder would mix more easily with water. Today, this process is known as "Dutching". The final product, Dutch chocolate, has a dark color and a mild taste.[2]

Later career

In 1835 Coenraad van Houten married Hermina van Houten (unrelated) from Groningen. In 1850 he moved his production from a windmill in Leiden to a steam factory in Weesp. By that time he was exporting chocolate to England, France, and Germany. In 1866 John Cadbury traveled to Weesp to buy a Van Houten press, but didn't use it in his manufacturing until 1875.

Coenraad's son Casparus Johannes (1844–1901), employed since 1865, had a gift for marketing and contributed greatly to the growth of the company. Advertisements for Van Houten could be found on trams throughout Europe and the United States. As early as 1899 Van Houten produced a commercial film that depicted a sleepy clerk who recovers miraculously after eating some chocolate.[3] The factory was a boost for the town of Weesp, whose population doubled in the second half of the 19th century. Casparus Jr. had himself built a 99-room Jugendstil villa in Weesp, by the renowned architect A. Salm (1857–1915).[4] Work was started in 1897 but not completed until 1901, the year he died.[5]

The Van Houten company was sold in 1962 to W.R. Grace, and the factories in Weesp closed in 1971. The Van Houten brand name, still in use, has been transferred several times since, in 1990 from the German chocolate manufacturer Jacobs Suchard to Philip Morris. It subsequently was owned by the Stollwerck chocolate manufacturing company and since 2002 by Barry Callebaut.[6]

The legacy of Dutch process cocoa

Dutch process cocoa is generally acknowledged as superior to cocoa not processed in this way.[7] The combination of the inventions by father and son van Houten led to the nineteenth-century mass production and consumption of chocolate, or, as some call it, the "democratization" of chocolate.[8]

Popular culture

"Drink Van Houten's Cocoa!" wrote Vladimir Mayakovsky in his poem, A Cloud in Trousers. This infamous citation is the title of Ornela Vorpsi's book from 2010.[9]

A Van Houten's Cocoa shop can be seen during the opening battle sequence of Neil Jordan's 1996 film Michael Collins.


  1. ^ a b "Onderzoekers in actie: Peter van Dam De geschiedenis van de firma Van Houten Cacao" (in Dutch). Retrieved 25 May 2008.
  2. ^ "Coenraad Johannes van Houten". Theobroma Cacao. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  3. ^ "Cacao: Opwekkend!". Westfries Museum. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  4. ^ "1315.BT: Archief van G.B. Salm en A. Salm GBzn.; bouwtekeningen". Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  5. ^ "Villa Casparus". 't Gooi info. Retrieved 14 March 2009.
  6. ^ Van Houten drinks website
  7. ^ Liddell, Caroline; Robin Weir (1996). Frozen Desserts: The Definitive Guide to Making Ice Creams, Ices, Sorbets, Gelati, and Other Frozen Delights. Macmillan. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-312-14343-5.
  8. ^ Courtwright, David T. (2002). Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World. Harvard UP. p. 25. ISBN 978-0-674-01003-1.
  9. ^ "Biography: Vorpsi, Ornela". Berliner Künstlerprogramm. Retrieved 20 March 2018.

External links

Media related to Van Houten chocolate at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 29 April 2019, at 17:49
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