What Does Chocolate Have To Do With Valentine's Day?

Love has a price, and for some, the best way to find such sweet nothings is through chocolate. In the week prior to Valentine's Day, Americans purchase 58 million pounds to celebrate their passion, according to The Daily Meal.

From its earliest days, the sweet confection found converts. The wealthy in Mayan and Aztec cultures prized its deliciousness and enjoyed a drink with roasted cacao beans, cornmeal, vanilla, honey, and chilies. "Cacao beans were as valuable a commodity as gold and were even used to pay taxes levied by Aztec rulers," per Smithsonian Magazine

By the 1600s, the substance was all the rage in London, and chocolate houses became popular for socializing. The Spanish Conquistadors introduced the treat, which became a culinary delight to the upper class. King Louis XIV encouraged the court to enjoy it, according to Chateau de Versailles. The chocolate drink became King Louis XV favorite thing to imbibe, and he "even made his hot chocolate himself in the kitchens of his private apartments," wrote the website. His mistress Madame DuBarry even believed it had aphrodisiac properties — no wonder the king enjoyed it so much.

Chocolate goes commercial

You can blame Richard Cadbury, whose family business was chocolate manufacturing, for linking Valentine's Day and the candy together. He developed "eating chocolates" and put them in boxes to sell. This led to specially designed containers in 1861 that depicted love, dotted with Cupids and flowers and shaped like hearts. People ate the confectionary and then kept the boxes. Although Cadbury "didn't actually patent the heart-shaped box, it's widely believed that he was the first to produce one," according to History

Milton Hershey also helped create the V'day-chocolate link. The man who would launch an entire line of delectable goodies got his start as a caramel maker — and then changed his destiny after seeing an 1893 chocolate exhibit in Chicago. "When Milton felt a growing demand for chocolate, he restructured his entire operation to mass produce a new formula of chocolate for all to enjoy," per the Hershey company site. "Soon what was once a luxury for the wealthy became a delicious and affordable treat for the common man"

Of course, there's also Russell Stover. His company started in 1923 with his wife, Clara, and himself, creating the treats in their Denver home. Within a year, they expanded to a five-store operation in several states. The business became so big it even bought out a competitor, Whitman's.

Because of these early innovators, there are numerous chocolate-covered, caramel-filled selections to choose from for Valentine's Day.