The Origins of Chocolate in the Mayan World

Origins of Chocolate  pic

Origins of Chocolate
Image: godivachocolates.co.uk

A computer systems analyst with over three decades of experience, Amita Vadlamudi has worked in various capacities in the information technology sector. A lifelong learner, Amita Vadlamudi enjoys learning about history and science. In particular, she is interested in ancient American cultures, like the Maya civilization of South America.

The Maya culture was extremely complex and sophisticated. In addition to several noteworthy scientific and astronomical discoveries, Mayans also are responsible for domesticating the cacao bean. The cacao bean was a prized element of the Mayas. Its importance is evidenced by its prolific inclusion in artwork, on vases, and in murals. It had medicinal, sacrificial, ceremonial, and culinary uses and was even used as currency.

The Mayas used the cacao bean to produce a frothy, sugarless chocolate drink made from crushed cacao beans, chili peppers, and water. The chocolate drink was a luxury item and was often offered to royals and newly married couples. It was known as the “food of the gods.”

Christopher Columbus was the first European exposed to the cacao bean during his fourth and last voyage to the Americas, when the treasured beans were offered to him as a trade item. Later, in 1528, Hernan Cortes brought chocolate to the Spanish court. With the addition of sugar, chocolate became very popular and spread throughout Europe as a luxury item.

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