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Ceremonial Cacao y mucho más

History of cocoa

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Did you know that its cocoa history is already 7500 years old?

Cocoa trees have taken root in many cultures. The history of chocolate dates back to the times of the ancient Maya and even their Olmec ancestors. It is not known when exactly cocoa appeared or who invented it. According to a study published in 2018 in Nature, the oldest known traces of cocoa use date from 5450 – 5300 BC from excavations in southern Ecuador. A team of scientists led by Sonia Zarrillo conducted a study study of the remains of ceramic vessels in which absorbed particles of theobromine, contained in cocoa beans, were found. It is believed that the Olmecs used grated cocoa beans together with chili peppers and herbs to prepare a festive drink [1]. The Mayans and Aztecs treated cocoa as a symbol of abundance and a gift from the gods. Mayan written history mentions chocolate drinks used during celebrations and the finalization of important transactions. Chocolate drinks were used daily. Mayan chocolate was thick and foamy, often combined with chili peppers, corn flour or honey. A similar practice in consumption suggests that it was the Olmecs who passed on the knowledge of chocolate to the Maya. The Mayans gathered once a year to thank the god Ek Chuah, whom they considered the god of cocoa.[1]

Cocoa beans, as a gift from the gods.

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

The beginnings of chocolate madness in Europe.

There are many legends about how cocoa got into Europe. Eventually, it was agreed that it first came to Spain thanks to 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 about the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. Apparently, Montezuma himself offered him chocolate,[3] which he then took to Europe. No matter how chocolate reached Spain, by the end of the sixteenth century it was already loved by the Spanish people. Soon, sympathy for chocolate spread throughout Europe. The answer to the high demand were plantations operated by thousands of slaves. At first, Europeans were not satisfied with the taste of traditional chocolate, so they began to experiment.[3] They made their own blends of chocolate with cane sugar, cinnamon and other popular spices.

Religion against cocoa.

Another barrier to chocolate was the world's approach to religion at the time.[6] Including to fasting, which was celebrated much more restrictively than today. In the face of the appearance of the novelty, which was chocolate. The Church had to decide whether chocolate is food, so its consumption breaks fasting, or whether it is a drink, because it only serves to satisfy thirst and does not break prohibitions. Both sides have gained their supporters. Eventually, the church decided that eating chocolate did not break fasting. Pious Europeans could easily succumb to the beneficial influence of chocolate even on fasting days. Funny that after years, chocolate Santa Claus and bunnies have become secular symbols of religious holidays.

The bitter taste of real chocolate.

The word chocolate can be associated with sweet candies or juicy cakes like American "Brownie". For most of history, however, chocolate has been a respected but bitter food. At the end of the eighteenth 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 to produce specialized "chocolatiere" pots and cups designed specifically for serving chocolate.[7] In Europe, many chocolate products were created that are considered traditional today. For example, the famous Belgian truffles deserve special mention. These are chocolates with a filling of melted chocolate and fondant seasoned with champagne, surrounded by unseasoned cocoa powder.

Chocolate on the world market.

The Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten did the most in terms of popularizing chocolate. In 1828 he discovered an innovative method of processing cocoa beans and invented the cocoa 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, together with his friend Henri Nestlé, they created the Nestle Company known to this day and brought milk chocolate to the mass market. Currently, there is practically no area of life in which chocolate is not present, in one way or another. Chocolate museums are being created all over the world. Today, chocolate can be the color of paint, jacket or the taste of ice cream. The world fell 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 cocoa. Despite this, there are still chocolatiers that follow age-old recipes and use the strictest ingredients available. With a little willingness, we still have the opportunity to feel the indigenous, earthly taste that the Indians enjoyed over 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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