The History of Cocoa
It all started when...
The Mayans and Aztecs of Central America traditionally ground cocoa beans into a paste which was added to hot water along with chili peppers, local herbs, corn, vanilla and cinnamon. Sugar wasn’t available to them; therefore the drink was usually enjoyed unsweetened in a gourd. The cocoa drink, which the Aztecs called xocolátl, was consumed on special occasions such as weddings and ceremonial feasts.
Xocolátl was one of the items that the Spaniards brought back to Europe from the Americas. For over 100 years they kept the process of chocolate production and making the spicy “drink of the gods" secret and developed a monopoly on its trade. By the mid-1600s, as Spain’s influence waned, they lost their monopoly on chocolate and hot chocolate became known as a healthy elixir for the wealthy across Europe. By the 1700s, “chocolate houses" were a common sight in the wealthy areas of England and France.
When Marie Antoinette arrived in Versaille in 1770 she brought her own personal chocolatier to the court. The “chocolatier to the Queen" layered exotic flavors like orange blossom and sweet almond over the traditional chocolate flavors of vanilla and cinnamon.
Meanwhile in Colonial America our forefathers had their own love affair with drinking chocolate. Thomas Jefferson once wrote to John Adams that “(t)he superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain."
Jefferson’s prediction hasn’t come to pass - yet! For multiple reasons, including new technology allowing for production of chocolate bars, hot cocoa became relegated to the sad paper envelopes, filled with sub-adequate cast offs we mix with water today.
It’s time to bring good cocoa back as an indulgence not just for special occasions, but for every day!