The Greatest Data Thefts in History #2

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and Dan Nosowitz

Stealing Chocolate, for Everyone

Chocolate has been salivating taste buds since around 1550, and today is in everything from milk to chocolate covered potato chips,  and even chocolate covered bacon. But did you know how it all started,  and who stole the receipt for it ? Well read on and you will find out, this is the 2nd of 11 stories about the worlds greatest data thefts, stop back  as we expose all these thefts and how they did it. Tomorrow #3

1606: Stealing Chocolate, for Everyone – 2 of 11

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From military intelligence gathering to the much more interesting realm of what is variously known as industrial espionage, corporate espionage, intellectual property theft, and trade secret theft. What all those terms really mean is simple, though the laws surrounding them are pretty complex: theft of ideas. If anyone had every successfully stolen the secret recipe for Coke, or for the Colonel’s however many herbs and spices, they’d be in here. But the ones that have been stolen are just as interesting. First up: the theft of chocolate.

Chocolate, a native of the Americas, had been grown and enjoyed by the pre-Columbian cultures lucky enough to live where it grew, especially the Aztecs and Mayans, both of which sometimes used cacao beans as currency. The beverage they brewed from it was bitter and harsh, and when Columbus first interacted with the Aztecs in Nicaragua, on his fourth trip to the Americas, he didn’t think much of it. Sure, he noticed that the locals worshipped the cacao tree, and that dropped beans were quickly snatched up, but he didn’t much care for the drink and essentially ignored it. Hernando Cortès, on the other hand, saw the financial possibilities of the drink, and brought chests of it back to Spain.

Cortès and his contemporaries began building cacao plantations in Mexico around 1550, and tales of the drink’s miraculous medical effects spread. Said Bernard Diaz del Castillo, a companion of Cortès: “The pleasure of consuming chocolate keeps one travelling all day. It keeps exhaustion away, without one feeling the need to eat or to drink.” And chocolate’s popularity grew, soon introduced to Europe. More specifically, chocolate was introduced to the Spanish nobility, who fiercely guarded the secret of the drink for about a century. Chocolate was the most exclusive drink in the world, prized by the richest and most powerful in Spain.

But the Spanish couldn’t protect the secret of chocolate forever. In 1606, an Italian explorer named Antonio Carletti discovered the secret Spanish chocolate plantations on one of his trips to the West Indies. He immediately published a recipe for what was then called “sweet chocolate” in his native Italy, where it immediately took off.