Chocolate has to start somewhere, besides a factory. Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which is from the Cacao Tree. The Cacao Tree has grown wild in Central Asia since prehistoric times. Theobroma cacao is a small understory tree native to the American tropical rainforest, which has evolved to utilize the shade of the heavy canopy. It originated in clumps along riverbanks in the Amazon basin on the eastern equatorial slopes of the Andes. The Cacao Tree is a shade-tolerant, moisture-loving, understory rainforest tree. It naturally favors water zones so often in the wild, it is found along rivers. The trees live for up to 100 years, but cultivated trees are considered economically productive for only about 60 years.
Chocolate dates way back to Mesoamerica from the Mayans and Aztecs civilizations. Both the Aztecs and the Mayan consumed large quantities of xocolatl (bitter water) as a luxury drink. The Mayan version of xocolatl was a rather bitter little potion made from roasted cocoa beans, water and spices. However, the Aztec version was described as ‘finely ground, soft, foamy, reddish, and bitter with chili water, aromatic flowers, vanilla and wild bee honey.’ They used cocoa beans for currency. The Mayan used cocoa for the treatment of coughs, fever, and even discomfort during pregnancy.
The Spaniards weren’t the first European explorers to discover chocolate. Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover cocoa beans on his fourth voyage to America on August 15, 1502. He found no interest in the cocoa beans.