For the Maya chocolate was the "drink of the gods", the Aztecs used cocoa beans to buy slaves. For Boston University and Harward University scholars, chocolate extends life (thanks to the polyphenols in cocoa that act as antioxidants).
Chocolate is a food derived from the seeds of the cocoa plant (Theobroma cacao L.) widespread and widely consumed throughout the world.
"Theobroma cacao" is the scientific name for chocolate, which literally means "food of the gods". The origins of chocolate are very ancient and are associated with the Mayan period, a people who were probably also the first to cultivate the cocoa plant. The cocoa plant has very ancient origins and, according to precise botanical research, it is assumed that it was present more than 6000 years ago in the Amazon River in the Orinoco. In ancient times, chocolate was considered a food for the privileged. The Maya reserved its consumption only for certain classes of the population: sovereigns, nobles and warriors. In those times the Mayan population used to drink the cocoa drink prepared with hot water.
The origin of the word chocolate is more closely linked to this type of preparation: water = haa, and hot = chacau. The cocoa drink took the simple name of chacauhaa. Synonym of chacau was chocol, from which chocolhaa derives, certainly the first name that comes close to the Spanish chocolat
From the Maya to the Aztecs
After the Maya also the Aztecs began the cultivation of cocoa, and later the production of chocolate; they associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility. With mystical and religious value, cocoa was consumed by the elite during important ceremonies, offered together with incense as a sacrifice to the deities and sometimes mixed with the blood of the priests themselves. In addition to a liturgical and ceremonial use, in the Americas chocolate was consumed as a drink, called xocoatl, often flavored with vanilla, chilli and pepper. This drink was obtained hot or cold by adding water and any other thickening or nourishing components, such as flour and minerals. The xocoatl had the effect of relieving the feeling of fatigue, an effect probably due to the theobromine contained in it. It was a luxury item throughout pre-Columbian Central America; cocoa beans were used as a currency of exchange, of account and also as a unit of measurement: in the treasury of the emperor Motecuhzoma (better known by the mangled name of Montezuma) almost a billion could be found. It is said that xocoatl was an exquisite taste
In 1200 begins the Aztec domination over the Maya, cocoa continues to be used as a drink, even by the Emperor Montezuma, and begins to be flavored with vanilla.
Export to Europe
In 1500, Christopher Columbus first, and then Cortes, discovered the cocoa plant in the Americas and brought its seeds to Europe for the first time. Only with Hernàn Cortézsi did cocoa be introduced in a more widespread way in Europe, it was 1519. For the whole of the sixteenth century, chocolate remained an exclusive of Spain, which increased its crops.
During the 1600s, chocolate became a popular luxury among the nobles of Europe and the Dutch, skilled navigators, wrested world control and commercial dominance from the Spaniards. In the Venice of the eighteenth century the first "coffee shops" were born, forerunners of ours
Cafe; they were, of course, also "chocolate shops" and competed to modify the existing recipe by inventing new versions. Until the 18th century, chocolate was considered the virtuous drink with miraculous properties. Brazil, Martinique and the Philippines increase the cultivation of cocoa disproportionately; at the same time many European cities are proud of the fame for the processing of chocolate.
Chocolate - today
Today, chocolate as we find it on the market is the result of successful production experiments with cocoa beans and mixing with other ingredients: dried fruit, candied fruit, other aromas; made possible thanks to the wide diffusion of this product among the public since the early nineteenth century.
Chocolate is passion, a 360 ° sensory experience from smell to taste, from sight to touch. Its texture can be soft or hard, shiny or matte; its taste, sweet or bitter.
Dark chocolate is the finest of the products and is recognized for its unmistakable sweet taste that leaves a bitter note in the mouth, an experience to try and try again.