The History and Production of Chocolate
Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, classified more than 4,400 species of animals and 7,700 species of plants (“Linnaeus”). In 1753, he named the cacao tree Theobroma cacao. Theobroma in Greek means “food of the gods” (Burleigh 15). From the pods of this rain forest tree come cacao beans, the raw material of chocolate. Chocolate has a long history as a highly prized food.
The History of Chocolate
We owe chocolate to the ancient civilizations of the New World. More than three thousand years ago, the Olmec people grew cacao trees in the tropical forests of the Amazon River Valley and in the foothills of the Andes (Presilla 10). Later, the Maya (who were at the height of their power from AD 300 to AD 900) continued making tchocolatl, a bitter drink, from the seeds of the cacao tree (“Maya”).
Can you imagine a bitter, gritty chocolate drink flavored with hot chili peppers and topped with foam? That is how the Maya consumed chocolate (“All About Chocolate”). To the Maya and to the Aztecs after them, chocolate was a precious drink. It was religious ceremonies and was considered so important that only kings, nobles, priests, and warriors were allowed to drink it (Prisilla 14-15).
In 1502, Christopher Columbus became the first European to sample chocolate. By the time, cacao seeds had become so valuable to the Aztecs that they were used as money. “Turkey, for example, was worth a hundred seeds. A small rabbit was worth thirty” (Burleigh 10). Even taxes could be paid with cacao seeds.
In 1519, Hernando Cortes, the Spanish soldier and explorer, came to Mexico searching for gold. Montezuma II, the Aztec emperor, served Cortes and his men chocolatl (“bitter water”) in special goblets, or glasses, made of gold (Jones 6). Cortes called chocolate “the divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue” (Burleigh 12). Recognizing its value, he shipped cacao seeds to Spain.
A breakthrough occurred when “an...