Where do chocolate and marzipan come from?

Chocolate

Chocolate is a sweet treat that has been known for thousands of years. Today, chocolate is made from cocoa mass and cocoa butter, which are made from roasted cocoa beans, and sugar. In the case of milk chocolate, milk is also added to the mix. A confection can only allowed to be referred to as chocolate if it has been made from cocoa butter. It can contain up to 5% of other vegetable fat (and even that must have identical properties to cocoa butter).

Originally, chocolate was a cold drink made from roasted, ground and frothed cocoa mass, and did not contain sugar, which is why its creators, the Aztecs in Central America, referred to it as xocolatl (bitter water).

Chocolate became known in Europe following the voyages of Columbus to America, and after the Spaniard Cortez conquered Mexico in the early 16th century. Solid chocolate as we know it was first manufactured by Joseph Fry of the Fry & Sons company in the middle of the 19th century. In 1875, the Swiss Daniel Peter added milk to chocolate, thereby creating milk chocolate.

In Estonia, one of the first renowned chocolate manufacturers, and predecessor of Kalev confectionery company, was Georg Stude’s company in Tallinn during the second half of the 19th century.

Kalev

Main types of chocolate

Nowadays, there are several different types of chocolate available in the shops. The differences start with the country of origin of the cocoa beans, and become more pronounced depending on the production method and recipes used to make the chocolate.

Dark chocolate 
The cocoa content in dark chocolate can even be over 90%. This type of chocolate is the most beneficial to your health, mainly thanks to its high cocoa content. Dark chocolate mainly consists of cocoa mass, cocoa butter, sugar and lecithin. The depth of the colour of the chocolate and the bitterness of its flavour depend on the ratio of cocoa mass to sugar. Semi-sweet dark chocolate with a cocoa content of up to 50% is usually used in pastries.

Milk chocolate 
In milk chocolate, some of the dry cocoa mass has been substituted with milk components, which gives a sweeter flavour, lighter colour and softer structure to the chocolate. As it is extremely heat-sensitive, using milk chocolate in desserts that require heat-processing is more complicated. It is also great for making decorations as a nice alternative to dark chocolate, in terms of its aroma, flavour and colour.

White chocolate 
The manufacturing process and ingredients of white chocolate are similar to that of ordinary chocolate, with one important exception: no cocoa mass or powder is used in white chocolate. The only cocoa product in white chocolate is cocoa butter. That is why white chocolate is sweeter than other types of chocolate, and is also great for making desserts. Compared to regular chocolate, it contains a lot more milk. However, melting white chocolate requires extra care: heating it too quickly may cause it to become grainy, or even to burn.

Marzipan

Made mostly of almonds and icing sugar, marzipan is one of the oldest sweets manufactured in Estonia, with production dating back to the Middle Ages. Marzipan probably originated from Persia (modern-day Iran), where written sources first mentioned this sweet treat in the 9th century. In the Early Middle Ages, marzipan reached Europe, where the old Hanseatic towns of Reval (now known as Tallinn) and Lübeck started manufacturing it almost simultaneously.

In Estonia, marzipan was first produced by pharmacists. More specifically, at the Town Hall Pharmacy of Tallinn, the oldest continuously-operating pharmacy in Europe, it is first mentioned in written records in 1422. According to a popular local legend, marzipan was invented by an assistant of the above-mentioned pharmacy. This legend became particularly famous thanks to the popular book Mardileib (Mart’s Bread) by the Estonian novelist Jaan Kross. In pharmacy documents dating from 1695, we can find a marzipan medicine under the name Panis Martius (also Marci Panis).

Another preserved document is a 17th-century order made by the above-mentioned pharmacy for the renowned Dutch sculptor Arent Passer to make two stone marzipan moulds. One of these moulds depicted Tallinn’s large coat of arms with a lion, and the other depicted a small coat of arms with a cross. Both of these were regarded as highly suitable moulds for gifts sent by the pharmacy to the aldermen on various special occasions.

During the period when Hanseatic guilds were actively operating, marzipan was made by suhkrupagarid (Estonian for sugar bakers), who became known as kondiitrid (Estonian for confectioners) from the 18th century onwards. One of them, a III Guild Swiss confectioner Lorenz Cavietzel left his mark on history in the early 19th century by purchasing the property on Pikk Street in the Old Town of Tallinn – the location of the modern-day Café Maiasmokk – and by starting to manufacture marzipan there, among other things.

The marzipan and chocolate factory established at the same location became even more famous in the second half of the 19th century, when Georg Johann Stude, a Baltic German from Narva, rebuilt the building and expanded it by purchasing the neighbouring plot.

Georg Stude’s exclusive marzipan products were well-known in the Governorates of Estonia and Livonia, and were also supplied to the Russian Imperial Court in St. Petersburg. Until the start of World War I, Georg Stude’s sweets were also sold in a company store in Moscow. Over the twisted course of history, Georg Stude’s company was nationalised but, fortunately, the manufacturing of marzipan figurines did not stop. Their production later continued in Estonia’s largest confectionery company, Kalev. The marzipan fruit and vegetables, animal and bird figurines, marzipan cakes and postcards with city views soon also found favour among the Kremlin’s “uncrowned rulers”. Leonid Brezhnev appreciated them particularly highly.

The very same methods and antique marzipan moulds from Stude’s store, dating back to the late 19th and early 20th century, are used to make marzipan figurines at the Maiasmokk building to this day (approx. 200 historical marzipan moulds have been preserved). All the figurines are shaped by hand, and later painted using a brush and food colouring. That adds a piece of the artist’s soul to every figurine, thereby making it unique.