World History 121
Febuary 6, 2014
First Expolartion in World History
Chocolate comes from the extensive process that begins with the bean of the Theobroma Cacao Tree. Theobroma Cacao translate to “Food of the Gods”. This name refers to both the delicious taste of chocolate and the respect that the Mayan and Aztec had for this delicious food. The Mayan and Aztec civilizations were the first to realize the importance of the cacao bean, actually using the beans as currency and serving crushed beans as a drink to the elite classes.
Theobroma cacao (also known as the cacao tree and the cocoa tree), is a small evergreen tree . It originates deep in the tropical regions of Central and South America. The cacao bean these days are used to make cocoa mass, cocoa powder, and chocolate. It was the Maya Indians, who lived in Central America, who first discovered and started using cacao beans as long ago as 600 AD. The Mayans formed it into a drink, which was made from roasted cocoa beans, water and a little spice. That was their primary use, but cocoa beans were also used as currency. For example; An early explorer visiting Central America found that four cocoa beans could buy a pumpkin; 10 could buy a rabbit.
The Aztecs were different. Because the climate was so dry, the Aztecs weren't really able to grow cocoa on their own land. So, they obtained their supply of cacao bean by trading and tributes. Tribute is a type of taxation that they received from the other areas that the Aztec Empire conquered. They mainly used their beans as a luxury drink.
Europeans only used cocoa to refine it into a drink. For almost a 100 years, the Spaniards kept chocolate a secret amongst themselves. They eventually added different ingredients, such as cinnamon, vanilla and sugar, and served it hot. The Europeans also used cacao for medicinal purposes, to cure stomach-ache and other ailments.
Christopher Columbus was the first european to drink chocolate, but it was Hernan Cortés, the leader of a journey to the Aztec empire in 1519, who brought it back to Europe. He returned to Spain in 1528 with the Aztec's recipe for the chocolate drink with him. The drink was at first received unenthusiastically and did not become popular until sugar was added as a second ingredient. That was when became a popular drink in the Spanish courts.
The cacao bean became so important to the Mayans and the Aztec's, that they used them as an delicious, used them as currency, and even thought of it as a gift from one of their many gods. The Europeans added many different sugars and spices, and served it hot. The Eurpoeans even believed that it could help cure illnesses and uncomfort.