A Time Before Chocolate?

Posted by on Feb 9, 2018

A Time Before Chocolate?

Can you imagine not having chocolate? We can’t either, but the fact is that it didn’t always exist. That sweet, deep decadence that we all love has really only been around since about 400 AD when many scholars believe the Mayans first began to cultivate the cacao plan. Even then it still wasn’t the same chocolate we know and love today. In fact, the cacao plant wasn’t even always the same. What goes into chocolate now is actually the result of selection and crossing that began around 3,500 years ago.

What the Mayans called “xocalatl” was essentially the first instance of cocoa consumption. Xocaltal was actually a drink made by dissolving ground up cocoa beans, cinnamon and pepper in water, a concoction that resulted in a rather bitter taste that was probably more highly valued for its stimulating effects than its taste. The drink was actually considered so valuable that it was kept locked in safes right alongside gold and jewels and was used as currency.

The Mayans believed that the god Quetzalcoatl brought the cocoa tree from the heavens so it’s pretty easy to see that they saw cocoa as a pretty big deal. Even the great Emperor Montezuma was said to drink dozens of cups every single day. Today it’s hard to imagine such a drink being all that popular – we personally prefer our cacao in delicious chocolate bars but hey, don’t knock it till you try it right?

 

So how did the west find this cocoa? We all know that in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but in 1502 Columbus arrived on an island called Guanaia, Honduras and was given a cup of chocolate as a gift. After that another explorer, Cortez, stumbled across the cacao plant itself and began sending the seeds back to Europe. Chocolate then exploded in the west. The Spanish put their own twist on the treat, adding spices and chilies into the mix and eventually adding vanilla, cinnamon and sugar to create the sweet and delicious product we enjoy today.

Crazy right? All of that just to enjoy a little taste of paradise every now and again. But as far as we’re concerned it’s worth it. Because what’s life without a little chocolate right?

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