Chocolate and Cocoa

4,000 Years of Delight: A Brief History of Chocolate

ESCRITO POR: Penelope Collado - July 2, 2020 - 7 MIN LECTURA

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From Mexico to the Netherlands to the Dominican Republic, chocolate is a global gift.

The 4,000-year history of chocolate began in ancient Mesoamerica. The Olmec, one of the first civilizations, were the first to convert the cocoa plant into chocolate, which was used during rituals and as medicine.

The Olmecs, the Mayas, the Toltecs and later, around 1300, the Aztecs, established their communities in the region of Mexico. They worshipped the feathered god Quetzalcoatl, who, according to legend, was abandoned by the other gods for sharing chocolate with humans. So precious was chocolate that they associated the extraction of the cocoa beans with the extraction of the human heart in sacrifices.

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Unlike the Mayans, who liked their chocolate hot, the Aztecs drank it cold, seasoning it with chilies, allspice, vanilla, and honey. They poured this mixture from one pot to another, creating a foamy drink called “xocolatl”, which means “bitter water”. They drank it as a soda, an aphrodisiac, and even to prepare for war.

No one knows for sure when chocolate arrived in Spain, but it is believed that it was Hernán Cortés who brought chocolate to his homeland in 1528. Cortés had found chocolate during an expedition to the Americas. In search of gold and wealth, he found a delicacy that would prove to be equally or more precious.

When Cortés returned home, he presented the cocoa beans to the Spaniards. Although it was still served as a drink, the naturally bitter taste and light texture of the chocolate there was mixed with sugar, honey, milk, and cream.

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The Spaniards kept the chocolate quiet for a long time, and it was almost a century before the gift reached neighboring France and then the rest of Europe. As the trend spread, many nations established their own cocoa plantations in colonies along the equator.

Chocolate was still produced by hand, which was a slow and laborious process. But with the industrial revolution just around the corner, things were about to change.

By 1828, the inventions of the chocolate press and the alkalinization of cocoa revolutionized chocolate making. Now you could squeeze the butter from the roasted cocoa beans, leaving a fine cocoa powder that allowed for different and innovative confections, including the chocolate bars we know and enjoy today.

And so, the modern era of chocolate was born.

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Most chocolate is highly refined and mass-produced, although some chocolatiers still make our confections keeping ingredients as pure as possible so that the protagonist is always the cocoa. And while a regular chocolate bar is not considered healthy, good chocolate, like the one we modestly and separately prepare at Bolitos and Candín, has earned its place as a healthy treat for the body and soul, and rich in antioxidants and minerals.

  • antioxidants
  • Bolitos and Candín
  • chocolate
  • good chocolate
  • history of chocolate
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