Chocolate probably originated in South America and was likely brought to Mexico by the Aztecs. A chocolate beverage called xocolatl (the Nahuatl source of the word cocoa) that was the precursor to hot chocolate, but bitter and stronger, was a popular drink among them. Montezuma drank around 50 cups of this beverage a day, according to legend. Chocolate was spread to the Old World after Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico and traded cocoa beans to Europe in exchange for European goods as part of the Columbian exchange. The Spanish made it into the drink we know today, heating the drink and adding sugar. Soon, chocolate was extensively used in desserts and drinks. Today, chocolate is produced throughout the equatorial portions of the world, from Venezuela to Madagascar. Half of the world's chocolate is now produced in the Ivory Coast under what are often terrible working conditions.
In 1765, chocolate production began in the New World. A water-powered mill in Dorchester, Massachusetts operated by John Hanan processed cocoa brought in from the West Indies by ship.
Nowadays, chocolate is most often eaten in the form of candy bars or hot cocoa (although chocolate eggs and rabbits are often available for sale during Lent since they are eaten in celebration of Easter). The top ten chocolate manufacturers in 2005 sold about US $42 billion in confectionary. There is a common belief that chocolate is bad for people's health and that it causes acne. In actuality, however, chocolate contains large amounts of healthy antioxidants, and food is not a cause of acne. If eaten unsweetened, chocolate is generally believed to actually be healthy. However, most admit that the addition of sugar to chocolate largely cancels out its benefits.
Women are stereotypically considered to be major consumers of sweetened chocolate.