Do you ever wonder how the Chocolate Chip Cookies in your Ben and Jerry’s ice cream came to be? When you give your girlfriend little Hershey Kisses on Valentines Day, are you wondering about the other side of the story? When you look up the recipe for that big dark chocolate cake, do you wanna know the secret behind this delicious invention?
The history of chocolate is a delicious tale of discovery, invention, and exploration.
For thousands of years chocolate was prepared as a bitter and spicy drink and had nothing to do with the chocolate Nestle bars and sweet cocoa we think of today.
The word chocolate originates from the Nahuatl or Aztec word Xocólatl which means “bitter water” (which gives you an indication of what it tasted like. Hint: NOT like a Snickers bar!). The Mayans and the Aztecs believed that cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility. Cacao or xocólat was considered the “food of the gods” that gave humans wisdom and power. As you can imagine it was pretty secret, powerful stuff! Mesoamerican cultures did not use factory sugar so they would mix the cocoa paste with hot chili peppers and corn meal, and transfer the mixture repeatedly between pots until the top was covered with a thick foam. That’s just how I want to have it, bitter and spicy, bleghh!
The Aztecs could not cultivate their own cocoa trees in the dry plains (no rain) so as they began to expand, all of the areas conquered by the Aztecs were forced to pay them a side tax in cocoa beans. The beans were also used as a currency and since they now dominated the areas where the cocoa tree could be grown, they could literally grow money!
At the time 100 beans equaled a canoe of fresh water, or a slave. Yes, I said canoe, it was a good way to measure things back then, and it had the same value as a slave. 10 beans equaled spending the night with a woman- we all know what that means. 4 beans equaled 1 rabbit, and 1 bean equaled an avocado, a tomato, or a tamale.