Some Tasty Chocolate History

The story begins POLKA DOT CHOCOLATE BARS some two millennia ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. Although the cacao tree had been around for some time, the natives had never used the beans inside the pods for food. Upon discovering that the seeds could be processed and used as a drink, it quickly caught on with these primitive people. The first people known to make chocolate from the cacao beans were the ancient cultures of Central America and Mexico.

The Olmec Indians are believed to be the first culture to grow the beans as a domestic crop, between 1500 and 400 B.C. From 250 to 900 C.E., the consumption of the beans was restricted to the elite class of the Mayan culture. Throughout these years, the drink was consumed unsweetened. Apparently the Mayan people valued the beans so highly that they planted them in their personal gardens so that they had easy access to them.

Around 600 A.D., the Mayans migrated into the northern regions of South America and began the earliest recorded plantations of cacao trees in the Yucatan. They used the beverage that they made in betrothal and marriage ceremonies.Once the Aztec culture was able to abscond with some of the beans and learn how to make the beverage from them,

they used them for medicinal purposes and in ceremonies such as weddings and religious rites. They believed that the beans were a gift from their gods. They are also the first known culture to tax the beans. Their name for the beverage that they made was “xocalatl”, translated to warm or bitter drink. The beans also began, at that time, to be used as currency by the Mesoamerican cultures. They were not used to make chocolate until they were too worn to be used as currency.

The first European to learn of chocolate was Christopher Columbus. He encountered a huge Mayan trading canoe piled high with the valuable beans. When the Spaniards invaded the Yucatan in 1517 and Mexico in 1519, they quickly caught on to the monetary value of the precious beans. They were not fond,

however, of the warm, bitter and unsweetened drink which they received from the local people. It took some time, but they learned to adapt their taste buds to the drink and began to enjoy it.They would grind the beans and mix them with different seasonings and spices and then whip the beverage by hand until it was both frothy and spicy.

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