The ancient tribes, of the Maya Indians, were the first to discover the wonderful enchanting properties of the cocoa bean around the year 600 AD. The cocoa bean was treasured for its properties, that is was used as currency, received as precious gifts, and as offerings at religious ceremonies. But the most treasured use was that of a drink called ‘chocolatl.’ The cocoa beans were roasted and steeped in water along with other delicious spices.
Maya farmers sold and traded their prized cocoa beans for needed supplies such as, clothing, ceremonial feathers, and precious stone. The cocoa beans were traded locally or carried on the backs of merchants as far as Mexico, where the Aztecs lived, to present the precious commodity to their people. The wandering tribe of the Aztecs established a remarkable city in the Valley of Mexico in 1325. Their great civilization and abounding city was destroyed and subjugated by the Spanish in 1521, only to be restored as Mexico City.
The Aztecs were obsessed with the ‘chocolatl’ drink that they considered a symbol of wealth. A unique blend of the finely ground cocoa bean was made soft, foamy, mixed with chili, fragrant flowers, vanilla, and honey to create a delicious but bitter drink. Unable to actually grow and produce the cocoa plant in their environment the Aztecs were left to trade or ‘tribute’ for cocoa bean supplies. ‘Tribute’ is a tax that was given to the Aztecs that had obtained lands during the wars. They would take the tax in the form of cocoa beans.
By the 16th century the Aztecs had built a great empire and their armies dominated Mexico. The Aztec people believed and worshiped many gods. A particular god called Quetzlcoatl, who was a god of agriculture and a creator, was directly linked to the precious cocoa beans. The Emperor of Mexico, Moctezuma, built temples to honor the god in the city of Tenochtitlan. The god Quetzalcoatl is associated with an old Mexican Indian myth that is told of the god being driven from his land by a higher god. The worshipers of Quetzalcoatl revered him and prayed for his return, leaving his legacy the cocoa tree. In 1517, Don Hernan Cortes arrived with his armada; the Aztec people thought it was Quetzalcoatl returning to them.
The Mayan ‘xocoatl’ is believed to be root of the word “chocolate.” The Aztec “cacahuatl’ is derived from cocoa. And the Mexican Indian word for “chocolate” is made from combining the expressions for (‘foam’) choco and (‘water’) atl, concluding ‘chocolatl.’
Christopher Columbus, in 1502, was thought to have brought cocoa beans to King Ferdinand, during his fourth trip from the New World. The cocoa beans went unnoticed due to the other amazing treasured discovered by Christopher Columbus. Upon Don Cortes’ travels, that led him to discover Mexico in 1517, he sought the riches and eminence of the “New World” within the realm of the Aztec civilization. Don Cortes’ interest in the Emperor Montezuma and the empire’s riches drove him to make his way to the Tenochititlan city from Veracruz, where he had first landed upon reaching the “New World.” This is where Don Cortes took his first drink of the treasured ‘chocolatl’ presented in a golden goblet.
Montezuma was known for always drinking his ‘chocolatl’ from a golden goblet and before retiring to his harem, drank his most valued drink. This is where the idea that chocolate holds the effect of an aphrodisiac came into the picture. In 1528, after the Spanish were driven from the city of Tenochtitlan, Cortes returned to Spain but not before loading his armadas with the valued cocoa beans and the equipment to produce the delicious ‘chocolatl’ drink. It was not long after that that ‘chocolatl’ grew to be the drink of choice among the rich. Of course, new recipes were formulated to suite the Spanish taste. In that time the Monks of the monasteries were skilled in medicines and were given to task of processing the beans and creating the ideal tastes according to the Spanish. It was revealed that the drink was improved when served hot. Sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg were added and the chili removed from the recipe creating a light and delicious version that was kept a secret, due to the lack of supply of cocoa beans in that time. By 1606, chocolate was reputable in Italy, where Mr. Francesco Carletti broke the Spanish monopoly. Francesco Carletti discovered how the Indians made the ‘chocolatl’ drink when he visited Central America.
The Dutch also came upon the treasured cocoa bean when they detained Curacao during the 17th century. This allowed the wonderful properties of the cocoa beans to be recognized and spread through out Europe. It was acclaimed that the cocoa bean was a cure for many ailments at that time. The marriage of the daughter of King Philip II of Spain to King Louis XIII of France not only joined the two as allies but brought chocolate to the French, which ignited a passion for the exotic concoction. Not only did it prove to be nourishing but had medicinal properties as well. In 1684, the French conquered Haiti and Cuba and started their won production of cocoa crops. This created a good supply for the French market.
Germany was introduced to chocolate around 1646 when brought by visitors. Chocolate ultimately reached England in the 1650s, where King Charles II found it to be on of his most valued treasures.
In 1657, London opened one of the first known chocolate houses. The French also began producing and selling chocolate by 1657. A pound of chocolate was prized around 10 -15 shillings. Chocolate was a luxury product only afforded by the rich. The value of cocoa grew so great it surpassed money through out the countries. It was used for trade and worth the weight of gold.
The amazing chocolate drink was the center of gatherings. It was the favored drink among social, business, and even political events.
Chocolate became known by doctors to have medicinal properties that could aid in many ailments. In 1662, Louis 14th of France affirmed that chocolate did not break fast for those that abstained the Easter fast. Pope Gregory 13th also declared the exception. By 1674 chocolate was being added to cake and rolls. Chocolate was now being provided in many new forms and recipes. A porcelain cup designed especially for chocolate was created in 1700. At this time milk was added to the concoction.
Chocolate was becoming ingrained and used in the lifestyle and culture of the wealthy. It symbolized the exotic and romantic characteristics of the inspired.
In 1755, the Americas received its introduction to the chocolate fantasy and began being massed produced by1765. The first chocolate house for the United States was established in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The popularity of chocolate in the states started of slow but soon became a valued asset.
The chocolate beverage was mainly drunk exclusively by men but was considered appropriate for children about the 17th century.
In 1819, a descendant of Debauve and his partner Monsieur Gallais opened a chocolate shop on the left bank of Paris that still stands there today. In Bull, John Cadbury, started the foundation of Cadbury Limited in 1824 and is one of the world’s greatest suppliers of chocolate today.
Soon the machinery for producing by-products of the cocoa bean was beginning to be developed by many, as they saw the many benefits of chocolate and its properties.
1847, the first eatable chocolate bar was introduced to the market by Fry’s of England.
Milton S. Hershey, in1892, became fixed on the chocolate industry. And the rest was history. There were even stories of espionage that was publicized in 1980, when a Swiss producer of Suchard-Tobler tried to secretly sell chocolate recipes to other countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia. This states the true value of chocolate in our lives. The evolution of the cocoa bean into the delight it is today has been developed and transformed as being a part of social, religious, and commerce growth since its discovery.
As you know chocolate still remains a mainstay in our society and culture and has been studied by chefs and doctors to the same avail that chocolate is a divine gift from above and has been associated with the well-being of the human kind trough the times. Millions of dollars are spent on chocolate every year. The US alone consumes 2.8 billion pounds yearly, which is almost half the world’s supply of chocolate. According to researchers, chocolate has over 300 different chemicals that can influence and modify mood, they are able to reduce tension and creating pleasurable feelings. This may explain the popularity of chocolate and its ability to stand the test and trials of time and remain a favorite among the human race. The properties of the cocoa bean have proven to attribute to the function and well-being of people. Chocolate is able to be made into various versions of delectable delights and have a positive effect if eaten in moderation. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. What would you want better than that?