THE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE
Many people believe that chocolate originally came from Europe. However, chocolate, called the “food of the gods,” was first made in the Americas. The first chocolate was very different from contemporary chocolate.
Wild chocolate trees can grow easily in the humid Amazon rain forest. Clusters of flowers growing on these trees turn to seeds. About 20 to 60 cacao beans can be found in the seeds. Cacao beans are the ingredient needed to create sweet, soothing, and delicious chocolate treats.
The Mayan and Aztec cultures both thought that chocolate trees were brought from paradise by gods. The Mayans and Aztecs used the beans from this divine tree to create a special beverage with a very pleasant odor. Surprisingly, the Aztecs believed that it would be toxic to women and children.
In the 1500s, the Spanish explorer Cortes met the Aztecs. Cortes became quite interested in the plantations where the Aztecs cultivated chocolate trees. When he returned to Europe, he took cacao beans with him. He introduced the people of Spain to the Aztecs’ chocolate beverage.
Over the next 100 years or so, kings, queens, and members of the upper class enjoyed drinking chocolate. They enjoyed it even more once they learned to add sugar to the beverage! Soon, chocolate had spread all across Europe. New machines allowed chocolate makers to perfect their products and produce them at a very rapid rate. Preparing the beans in special ways brought out the aroma of chocolate. The beans were combined with condensed milk to give the chocolate a smooth texture.
Today, contemporary chocolates with subtle flavors fill the shelves of expensive chocolate shops. The different types of chocolate available today vary widely. True chocolate lovers can tell which is best, though. They will tell you that the flavor of high quality chocolate stays on the palate long after you finish it.