When it comes to learning about the history of chocolate, most people never look past the excellent book, The True History of Chocolate
by Sophie and Michael Coe. I have to say that the timing of the publishing of this book (1996) was instrumental in my quest to become a chocolate critic. While I am sure that the Coe's did a fair amount of primary research, much of what they wrote was gleaned from the writings of others, which can be confirmed by taking a look at the bibliography.
Many of the sources that are referenced are not easily accessible - even in the current age of Internet access - unless you have access to a good university research library.
For me, one of the cool things about chocolate is that it affords me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity on a lot of subjects. While I do the tasting and criticism things, my ability to do these is informed by my knowledge of the history, cultural anthropology, economics, agronomy, genetics, and more about chocolate. Chocolate is a lens that I use to look at any subject of interest.
So, if it's not easy to get access to many of these resources, where can you go to learn more?
One great resource is Project Gutenberg, a collection of eBooks that are in the public domain. I like to use the resources at archive.org because they aggregate the Project Gutenberg eBooks with those available from other sources.
One eBook I can recommend is The Project Gutenberg EBook of Cocoa and Chocolate, by Arthur W. Knapp, originally published in 1920 and titled Cocoa and Chocolate: Their History from Plantation to Consumer.
Click here to read the eBook online
in a web browser.
The text is also available for download
in a few different formats from links on this page:
From time to time I will be posting other good learning resources that are available online as comments to this post. (Book recommendations will be posted in the forums in the Book Reviews category.) If you have some online resources that you'd like to recommend, you can post them here.