Friday, May 31, 2013


Cacao, native to Mexico, Central and South America, has been cultivated for at least three millennia in that region. It was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage, and as an ingredient in foods. Chocolate has been used as a drink for nearly all of its history. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate that the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. The Maya civilization used the cacao seeds to make a frothy, bitter drink. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated that chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The indigenous inhabitants of South America have known the secrets of the cocoa bean for over three thousand years. Columbus discovered the beans during his fourth voyage to the new world. When the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico in 1521, he stole the recipe for 'xocolatl', a cocoa drink, from the Aztecs. The Aztecs customarily fermented and dried the cocoa beans, rubbed them into a powder and mixed them with water and herbs. This drink was so popular that cocoa beans served as a local currency. For more than a century the Spanish managed to keep the recipe secret, but from the seventeenth century onwards the use of cocoa spread throughout Europe. The first chocolate house opened in London in 1657. In 1689, noted physician and collector Hans Sloane developed a milk chocolate drink in Jamaica which was initially used by apothecaries, but later sold to the Cadbury brothers in 1897. For hundreds of years, the chocolate making process remained unchanged. When the people saw the Industrial Revolution arrive, many changes occurred that brought about the food today in its modern form. In the 1700s, mechanical mills were created that squeezed out cocoa butter, which in turn helped to create hard, durable chocolate. But, it was not until the arrival of the Industrial Revolution that these mills were put to bigger use. Not long after the revolution cooled down, companies began advertising this new invention to sell many of the chocolate treats we see today. When new machines were produced, people began experiencing and consuming chocolate worldwide.


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