A Brief History of Chocolate
When I started my chocolate journey, I knew that love chocolate and I wanted to find the best. Other things that I learned intrigued me as well. One of them was the history of chocolate, which is a long and interesting history. I’ll keep it sweet and brief:
How it all began
* Theobroma cacao is Greek for “food of the gods,” which was how the tree was known to Mesoamericans. It was said to have been brought to earth by Quetzalcoatl on a beam of starlight.
* The Olmecs (1500-400 BC) are credited with being the first civilization to consume chocolate, mainly in the form of a drink.
* The Mayans took the tree from the rainforest and grew it in their own backyards, creating the first cultivated harvest.
The Olmec, the Maya and the Aztecs consumed their bitter chocolate drink seasoned with spices — sugar was a product unavailable to the ancient Mesoamericans. Many in Mayan society drank chocolate at least on occasion, although it was a particularly favored beverage for royalty.
Rise of the Aztecs
By 1400, the Aztec empire dominated a sizeable segment of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with the Maya and other peoples for cacao and often required that citizens and conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao seeds — a form of Aztec money. You’ve heard the phrase, “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” Well, in their time it did!
In Aztec society, primarily rulers, priests, decorated soldiers and honored merchants would drink this sacred beverage. Cacao also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events where priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.
Money Grows On (Chocolate) Trees
* On his fourth voyage to America in 1502, Christopher Columbus came in contact with cacao , but the beans were overlooked in favor of other treasures.
* It wasn’t until 1528 when Hernando Cortez came back to Spain with a few trunks full of beans that the beans were recognized as valued commodities.
* Soon after, the Spanish began their own cacao plantation to send the valuable cacao seeds back home. In essence, the Spanish began growing their own money!
Both cacao and sugar were expensive imports and only those with money could afford them so chocolate remained an elite beverage and a status symbol for Europe’s upper classes for the next 300 years. As a matter of fact, in France chocolate was a state monopoly that could be consumed only by members of the royal court.
For centuries, chocolate remained a handmade luxury enjoyed only by society’s elite. It wasn’t until the 1800s when advances were made during the Industrial Revolution that allowed mass production of solid chocolate candy affordable to a much broader public.
I am glad to live in a time when good, healthy chocolate is available to all. Today we can find delicious offerings from chocolate makers all over the world. Drexelius Chocolates is here to share discoveries of great chocolate and honor the cultures that brought it to us. Carry on the delicious history of chocolate and enjoy some today!
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