History of Chocolate Essay
Various theories surround the origin of this popular food. Most historians believe that Chocolate or Chocolatl originates from the Nahuatl Language xocoatl or cacahuatl meaning bitter water. Some believe that it originates from the Mayan language and has been coined by Spanish people using the Mayan term “choco’ and “haa” and the Nauhatl term “atl”. Recently linguists came out with another theory that it originates from “chicolatl” from the word “chico-li” meaning to beat or stir and not “Chocoatl” (“History of Chocolate,” 2007, Etymology, para1). These chocolates are made from Cocoa beans, these again originate from the Nahuatl word “cacao”.
Cacao beans have been cultivated in the South American Rainforests millions of years before the Meso-America’s Mayans. An archaeological survey shows the physical residue of chocolate in some Mayan pots suggesting that Mayans were drinking chocolate some 2600 years ago. Some historians believe that the Cocoa plant has been cultivated in the Amazon region for more than 4000 years, which is almost 2000 BC. History has it that a Swedish person gave the chocolate plant its botanical name “ Theobroma cacao” which literally translated is “Food of the Gods”.
History has it that the Aztecs who were a superstitious group of people actually offered chocolate to the Gods of their time. The Cacao tree was an object of worship according to the Mayans and “Cacao’ in the Mayan Language means “God Food”. It is seen that the Mayans roasted and pounded the cocoa beans along with maize and capsicum and brewed a spicy, bitter sweet drink and allowed it to ferment. This was used for ceremonies and it is also seen that the elite in Mayan society had chocolate porridge for occasions (Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates, 2006).
An old Mexican myth links the Chocolate trees to Quetzalcoatl, who was worshipped as the god of agriculture. According to this myth, Quetzalcoatl had to leave the Aztec empires due to some reason and the people were anxiously awaiting his return. When they saw a ship nearing their shores, they believed it to be him and sent offerings of the cocoa beans and chocolate drink to welcome him. However, later to their dismay, they found out that the ship was an invading European ship wanting to conquer and acquire their lands (“History of Chocolate”, Cadbury, 2007). It is also seen that the Aztecs valued the cocoa beans and used it for trade.
It was seen that the Aztecs lived in regions at higher altitudes where the climate was not conducive to cocoa cultivation and thus they had to acquire these seeds through trade or as spoils of war. They were the equivalent of currency in those days and taxes were paid by the elite in the form of cocoa beans. A reading of the History of Chocolate shows that chocolate was equaled to an aphrodisiac and the Aztecs felt that it not only increased sexual prowess but also imparted wisdom and provided great energy. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma had once called Xocoatl as “The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue.
A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food” (Aphrodite Handmade Chocolates, 2006). Europeans were introduced to chocolate much later in the 16th century. It was seen that the Spanish invader Don Hernan Cortes who invaded the Aztec empire of Tenochtitlan was offered a drink of xocoatl by the Mexican emperor Moctezuma who along with gold and silver sent loads of cocoa beans to greet the ship, that he believed was Quezalcoatl’s ship returning home. Cocoa beans was ground to paste and mixed with spices, vanilla and honey and brewed and poured into cups from great height to create a frothy feeling.
This drink was then served to people coming from long distance and was a common drink at the house of the nobility during various occasions (Rust, 1999). According to history, Don Cortes and about 600 men traveled from Cuba to seek fame and fortune from the New World. As they had heard a lot about the riches of the Emperor Moctezuma, they traveled to Tenochtitlan to see the same. When they arrived at Tenochtitlan they were amazed to find that instead of abundance of gold or silver, these cocoa beans were found in abundance. s they were aware of the riches that it proclaimed.
Further, as mentioned earlier the Aztec emperor himself offered Don Cortes, the famed chocolate drink. History then goes on to add that the Spanish invaded the Aztec empire and caused the death of Moctezuma. Don Cortes returned to Spain not empty handed but with sacks full of coffee beans. This is the first instance when chocolate or cocoa beans entered Europe as opposed to the common belief that Christopher Columbus in his attempt to find America brought chocolate to Europe.
Some historians believe that Columbus when he returned from his trip to search for the Americas, and laid down his conquests and possessions, these beans were also in those bags and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella got their first glance of these beans. According to this little piece in history, the King and Queen never realized the importance of the cocoa beans to the world and it was Cortes who made the world realize the beauty and importance of these beans.
Historians might have their differences over the person who brought the bean culture to Europe but they are all united over the fact that it was Don Cortes who popularized the drink the world over. Don Cortes brought back home cocoa beans and equipment for making chocolate drink for the first time to Spain. Though initially the Spaniards did not like the drink the way it was brewed by the Aztecs owing to its bitter and spicy taste, they soon innovated. The original way to brew a chocolate drink not only included adding capsicum or chilli peppers to the brew but also it called for fermentation.
This essentially meant that the drink was to be had cold. Spaniards introduced the method of drinking chocolate with hot water, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. They felt that the beverage would taste better when it was hot and this drink became very popular with the Spaniards. It has been seen that though this drink was popular with Spaniards, it took almost a century to become popular with the rest of Europe. It is seen that over hundred years later, when a Spanish Princess married a French counterpart , she took the secret of the cocoa drink to French.
French being culinary trendsetters popularized the drink and were the forerunners for creating modern day coffee houses that serve this delicious beverage. In Spain and in Europe in general chocolate in the initial stages was still being served as a beverage and was a drink that was a luxury and not affordable by the common man but only by the nobles. In London, it was seen that those who could afford to enjoy the chocolate drink could do so in the new coffee and chocolate houses that were slowly being established in London (Spadicccini, n. d. ).
Initially Spain had total monopoly on cocoa cultivation but soon this changed and the French, English and Dutch started their own cocoa cultivation in the various colonies acquired by them. An Italian traveler was the first to break this Spanish Monopoly. He had visited the central Americas and had seen the beans being cultivated and the beverage being brewed and by the early 17th century had established and popularized the drink in Italy. Increased production led to more supply and hence reduced prices and soon the drink became available to everyone.
The flip side to such large scale cocoa plantations was the increase in slavery in the New World. America has been introduced to the wonders of chocolate well before England in the late 16th century when the first chocolate factory was established in 1765. During World War II, the US Government realized the importance of the chocolate bars and the instant energy that it provided and immediately shipped a lot of these bars to the soldiers. In the late 17th century, Sir Hans Sloane had the opportunity of drinking cocoa in Jamaica. He again found this very unpalatable but found that the same cocoa paste when mixed with milk tasted better.
When he returned to England, he made it a point to take back the recipe and initially in England it was sold as medicine in apothecaries (Lancashire, 2005). This recipe was then used by Cadburys to manufacture the chocolate as we know it today. The first commercial chocolate factory was established in the late 18th century in Bristol by Walter Churchman. In the early 19th century, a Dutch chocolate maker, by the name of Conrad J. van Houten, patented the method of removing fat from cocoa beans and producing a cake like substance which when dried and powdered led to the creation of what we know today as cocoa powder.
This cocoa powder was then treated with alkaline salts and this made it easily soluble in water. Creation of cocoa in powder form was a very useful invention. This was the starting point for creating chocolates in the form that we know and love today. Cocoa powder is extensively used in manufacture of cakes, chocolate drinks and chocolate bars. After the production of cocoa in the powder form, the next obvious step was to make chocolate in the solid form as the bars we know today.
A reading of history reveals that the first primitive version of the chocolate bar was initially created by J. S. Fry and Son in 1847 when they mixed sugar and cocoa butter with chocolate powder to produce a dry, grainy and not particularly tasty solid slab. Swiss people being naturally creative and experimental invented the newer forms of chocolate that we know and love today. Invention of milk chocolate by adding more milk and sugar to the existing recipe was made by Henri Nestle and Daniel Peters (Lancashire, 2005).
In conclusion, it is apt that one should quote an age old myth about an omnipotent deity named Sibu. According to the legend Sibu could grow animals and humans from seeds and he transferred his powers and gave all the seeds to Sura, another deity. Story has it that Sura buried these seeds and went away for a short while. At that time another deity Jabaru who was not a good deity dug up the seeds and ate them. Further when Sura returned he slit his throat and buried him in the same place as his seeds and went away pleased.
Time passed and when Jabaru returned to the same place, he saw two strange trees that had sprung from Sura’s grave- a cacao tree and a calabash. The omnipotent deity, Sibu was standing next to the trees and asked Jabura to brew a drink from the cocoa seeds. Jabura took the seeds and the calabash fruit to his wife who brewed the drink and Jabura then offered it to Sibu. Sibu, instead asked Jabura to drink the beverage to which Jabura complied instantly by gulping it as fast as he could. His delight changed to agony when the cocoa caused his belly to swell and burst and spill the original seeds.
Sibu then restored Sura to life and also returned the seeds that created humans and animals (Jenks, 1999). Though this story has no relevance here as far as its moral value is concerned, it is mentioned here only to show that even ancient mythology shows signs of existence of the cocoa plant and the beverage that we all like and have in abundance. From the above facts we can establish that chocolate has been used by people in various forms for various reasons since time immemorial and it continues to be the most popular food or beverage even today.