The History of Chocolate
The history of chocolate starts more than 3,000 years ago. Among the earliest people to discover the health benefits of chocolate were the Maya and their predecessors, the Olmec culture, in approximately 1,500 B.C. These ancient peoples in the Americas used the chocolate bean as the main ingredient in a bitter beverage revered for its nourishing qualities and ability to boost energy and stamina. It was also used to treat stomach and intestinal complaints, infections, fever and coughs. The drink was a mixture of fermented and roasted cocoa paste, water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients blended into a spicy, frothy, and sugar-free health drink.
In fact, for the ancient Mesoamericans, chocolate was more than just a favored health food. It also played an important role in their religion, society and economy.
Archaeological evidence indicates that over time, cacao-based foods became such an important part of their living that they perfected the growing and harvesting of the bean. Other evidence shows that cacao was involved in Mayan celebrations, including marriages and religious ceremonies. This drink was particularly favored by the royalty and religious leaders. The history of chocolate shows that numerous ancient glyphs and Mayan vessels depict this beverage being consumed by priests and royalty.
Because of its value and popularity, the cacao bean became a significant trade item for the Mayans. In fact, the Aztecs—who could not grow the cacao tree because of their dry climate—became so enamored with the bean that they often required that citizens and conquered peoples pay their tribute in cacao beans. The Aztec word for the delightsome drink—xocolatl, which means “bitter water”—is what was eventually transformed into the modern English word, “chocolate.”
Until the 1500s, no one outside of the New World knew anything at all about chocolate, although historical records indicate that other European explorers, including Columbus, at least encountered cacao in the Americas. It wasn’t until Hernán Cortés conquered Mexico in 1521 that the Spanish began to learn about the delicious flavor of chocolate. Cortés and his men had their first taste of the beverage from the confiscated treasure stores of the Aztecs. Cortés described it as a “divine drink” that “builds up resistance and fights fatigue.” He observed that “a cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food.”
The history of chocolate in Europe came during the conquest of Mexico in 1521. The Spaniards discovered that mixing the bitter chocolate base with sugar and a variety of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and the like, proved to be more suited for the European palate. Eventually, chocolate beverages gained popularity among European aristocrats and remained a status symbol for the wealthy until the chocolate candies were first mass-produced for the public in the nineteenth century. As late as the 1600s, the drink was still advertised as a health elixir in England.
The new, sweeter chocolate concoctions were brought back to the Americans by European settlers. President Thomas Jefferson is said to have remarked, “The superiority of chocolate for health and nourishment will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America that it has in Spain.”
Our love affair with chocolate continues today, though the sweet cocoa confections we enjoy today bear little resemblance to the bitter Mesoamerican brew.
Now when you have you read about the history of chocolate, take also a chance to explore about the healthiest
Return from The History of Chocolate to Healthy Chocolate