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Ceremonial Cacao y Mucho Más
Ceremonial Cacao y mucho más
Free shipping from 65 EUR
Ceremonial Cacao y mucho más

The history of cacao

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Did you know that its cacao history is already 7,500 years old?

Cocoa trees have put down their roots in more than one culture. The history of chocolate can be traced back to the ancient Mayans and even their Olmec ancestors. It is not known when exactly cacao emerged or who invented it. According to a 2018 study published in Nature, the oldest known traces of cacao use date from 5450 - 5300 BC from excavations in southern Ecuador. A team of scientists, led by Sonia Zarrillo, carried out research into, among other things, the remains of ceramic vessels in which particles of theobromine, contained in cacao beans, were found absorbed. It is believed that the Olmecs used grated cacao beans together with chilli peppers and herbs to make a ceremonial drink [1]. The Maya and Aztecs regarded cacao as a symbol of abundance and a gift from the gods. Mayan written history mentions chocolate drinks being used during ceremonies and finalising important transactions. Chocolate drinks were used daily. Mayan chocolate was thick and frothy, often combined with chilli peppers, corn flour or honey. The similar consumption practice suggests that it was the Olmecs who passed on the knowledge of chocolate to the Maya. The Maya gathered once a year to give thanks to the god Ek Chuah, whom they considered the god of cacao[1].

Cacao beans as a gift from the gods

The Aztecs related to cocoa beans with even greater reverence. In Aztec culture, the cocoa bean was considered more valuable than gold. They used the beans as currency to buy food and other goods. As a consumable, it was mainly an upper-class extravagance; the lower classes occasionally consumed cacao at weddings or other celebrations. Perhaps the most famous Aztec chocolate lover was the powerful ruler Montezuma II, who is said to have drunk large quantities of chocolate every day as a source of energy and an aphrodisiac [3]. He is also said to have reserved some of the cocoa beans for his army. The Aztecs believed they owed cacao to the god Quetzacoatl, whom they believed condemned the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans.[4].

The origins of the chocolate craze in Europe.

There are many legends as to how cacao got to Europe. It is eventually agreed that it first arrived in Spain through Christopher Columbus, who discovered cocoa beans after intercepting a merchant ship on a voyage to America and brought them with him to Spain in 1502[5]. There is also a legend concerning the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. It is said that Montezuma himself treated him to chocolate[3], which he then took back to Europe. Regardless of how chocolate arrived in Spain, by the end of the 16th century it was already adored by the Spanish people. Soon the fondness for chocolate spread throughout Europe. Plantations operated by thousands of slaves were the answer to the high demand. At first, Europeans were not satisfied with the taste of traditional chocolate, so they began to experiment[3]. They created their own mixtures of chocolate with cane sugar, cinnamon and other popular spices.

Religion against cacao

Another barrier to chocolate was the attitude of the world of the time towards religion[6]. This included fasting, which was celebrated much more strictly than today. With the advent of the novelty that was chocolate. The Church had to decide whether chocolate was a food, and therefore its consumption broke the fast, or whether it was a drink, as it only served to quench the thirst and did not break the prohibitions. Both sides gained their supporters. Eventually, the church decided that the consumption of chocolate did not break the fast. Pious Europeans were able to indulge in the benefits of chocolate on fast days without hindrance. Funnily enough, years later chocolate Santas and bunnies became secular symbols of religious holidays.

The bitter taste of real chocolate

The word chocolate may be associated with sweet candies or luscious cakes like the American 'Brownie'. However, for most of history, chocolate was a respected but bitter food. At the end of the 18th century, Europeans began to prepare chocolate with milk and sugar to create what we know today as hot chocolate. The drink became so popular that many of Europe's leading porcelain manufacturers, such as Limoges in France, began producing specialised "chocolatiere" pots and cups designed specifically for serving chocolate[7]. A number of chocolate products considered traditional today were developed in Europe. For example, the famous Belgian truffles deserve a mention. These are chocolates with a filling of melted chocolate and cream flavoured with champagne, surrounded by unsweetened cacao powder.

Chocolate on the global market

Coenraad Johannes van Houten, a Dutch chemist, did the most to popularise chocolate. In 1828 he discovered an innovative method of processing cocoa beans and invented the cacao press [8]. The press made chocolate available to everyone on an unprecedented scale. Less than 50 years later in 1876, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter created the first milk chocolate. A few years later, with his friend Henri Nestlé, they created the still-famous Nestle Company and brought milk chocolate to the mass market. Today, there is practically no area of life where chocolate is not present, in one way or another. Museums of chocolate are springing up all over the world. Today, chocolate can be the colour of paint, a jacket or the flavour of ice cream. The world has fallen in love with chocolate. Unfortunately, most modern chocolates are mass-produced and have little in common with the Aztec 'food of the gods'. Also in terms of the nutritional properties of cacao. Nevertheless, there are still chocolatiers who follow age-old recipes and use the finest ingredients available. With a bit of willpower, we still have the opportunity to experience the indigenous, earthy taste that the Indians enjoyed more than 7,000 years ago.

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[8] Onderzoekers in actie: Peter van Dam De geschiedenis van de firma Van Houten Cacao" (in Dutch). Retrieved 25 May 2008.

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Our ambition is to import both ceremonial cacao and powder cacao from all over the world. We aim to bring organic BIO cacao everywhere. However, we sometimes travel to really wild and faraway places where we also meet extremelly pure cacao farms. Those ones are not labeled with certificates, as very often not tauched with civilisation at all or people there are too poor to apply for them. For sure the whole cacao we sell is 100 per cent vegan and kosher.
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