The History Of Chocolate
The Origin of Chocolate
Chocolate originates from Central America. The natives of these parts consumed it as a beverage.
The Aztecs have traditionally been acknowledged as the original drinkers of cacao. However archaeological evidence indicates that the Olmec (1150-300bc) and the Maya (200bc-ad1550) grew cacao as a domestic crop in Central America. So for over three thousand years humanity have had a love affair with cacao; what has now become chocolate!
The cacao bean was prized not only for its taste but also for its medicinal purposes. The cacao bean was also the main form of currency in central America for over a thousand years.
A slave could be bartered for 100 cacao beans, a chicken four, and a rabbit two beans.
Chocolate itself was considered so precious that it was reserved for warriors, nobility, and priests. Cacao was taken as a drink for special religious ceremonies and was considered a fertility enhancer!
And so for over three thousand years chocolate was consumed as a sacred beverage; ground, mixed with water, spices, chillies, and maize flour, and then aerated by pouring it between small bowls from a height. The froth was much sought after. The Mayans drank it warm, the Aztecs drank it cold. Truly the first Chocolatiers!
Columbus was of course the first from the old world to discover the cacao bean. However he did not like the taste, and the beans he brought back to Spain lay spoiling in a warehouse unnoticed.
In 1519, Emperor Montezuma, who reportedly drank fifty or more portions of hot chocolate daily, served the drink to his Spanish guests, including Cortés; the famous conquistador, in great golden goblets, revering it as a food for the gods.
Emperor-Montezuma.jpgCortés being commercially minded immediately recognized the importance of the cacao bean. However, Montezuma's chocolate was very bitter, and the Spaniards did not find it to their taste. To make the concoction more agreeable to Europeans, Cortés and his countrymen conceived of the idea of sweetening it with cane sugar.
When they returned to Spain, the idea quickly found favor and the drink underwent several more changes with the addition of some newly discovered spices, such as cinnamon, and vanilla. Hot chocolate became an immediate craze amongst the Spanish aristocracy.
Spain wisely proceeded to plant cacao in its overseas colonies, giving birth to a very profitable business. Remarkably enough, the Spanish succeeded in keeping the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the rest of Europe for nearly a hundred years!
The Spanish invented a tool (pictured to the left) called the Molinillo to assist with the frothing of the drink (a 500 year old espresso machine). The cup and saucer became popular for chocolate to ensure not one drop of the precious liquid would be spilled!
Chocolate Spreads throughout Europe...