Welcome to our chocolate week series. This week we will tempt you with salivating stories, from the hunger-inducing history of chocolate, to the unknown saucy secrets, and then we will spoil you with rich recipes. This is a week for indulgence, so treat yourself and enjoy a piece of our daily blogs.
Our story begins in Mesoamerica- a region we now call Mexico and Central America. Many civilisations in this region grew cacao, such as the Olmec, Maya and Aztec. Each had their own uses for cacao.
The Olmec Civilisation was from south central Mexico and around from about 1500 BCE to 400 BCE. Cacao was used for religious rituals or in medicinal drinks. There is very little evidence about how these drinks were made.
The Maya people, (c. 2600 BCE- now) from southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador have left evidence including writing about cacao being consumed as a drink. Cacao was thought to be the food of the rain god Kon, and once a year Mayan people gave thanks to Ek Chuah, the cacao god. The cacao drink was made from roasted cacao seed paste, water, chili peppers and cornmeal. It was a very special drink, only used for rituals, feasts, festivals and ceremonies. Cacao beans were also used as a form of currency.
The Aztecs, (c. 1300 CE – 1521 CE) were from central Mexico, and like the Maya believed that cacao was a gift from the gods. They believed that they were a gift from Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god of wisdom. The Aztecs has to trade for cacao because they couldn’t grow it. Like the Mayas the seeds were so valued that they were a form of currency. The Aztecs drank chocolate cold, and it was seen as an aphrodisiac, or had special powers and given to Aztec soldiers. It’s said that the Aztec leader Montezuma II drank more than fifty cups of chocolate a day!
Come back for a second chunk tomorrow to learn about how chocolate came to Europe….
(Wikibooks / Wikipedia photo credits)