What do you know about this history of chocolate? For many of us, it is a convoluted story we have been told by large multinational corporations to make us buy products. If you want to really learn about the true history of chocolate and its implications on how it can improve your life then keep reading.
To start we need to look back at where it all started: Central America/South America. Archaeological evidence points to cacao usage with a few key indigenous peoples: the Olmec, Aztecs, and the Mayans. It is important to look at how they used cacao. One of the primary ways of consuming cacao was as follows: grind roasted cacao beans to a paste, mix with water, add chili peppers, spices, and most important corn. Corn was highly revered in mesoamerican societies. Both were considered food of the gods. Today this drink is commonly referred to as atole. It is typically reserved for special holidays and events.
Next, enter the Spanish. They take this newfangled chocolate drink back to Europe in the 1600’s. You can imagine this drink is not too popular at first with the King and other aristocracy. To gain the appeal of the masses they sweeten the drink with sugars, exotic spices, and even animal glands. Chocolate houses come into existence and spread throughout Europe, mostly for the elite. Here, patrons can gamble, talk, and drink chocolate. The drink became so popular during this time the church allowed its consumption during ritual fasts. It was views as a cure all or magic snake oil of the time. If you haven’t read the Natural History of Chocolate (1730) it makes for an interesting read.
So, whats the takeaway or importance? Chocolate was first thought of as a drink. You could call this the First Wave of Chocolate (analogous to how the progression of coffee is described). Chocolate bars or eating chocolate did not exist until 200+ years after chocolate was first introduced to Europe. Making chocolate was a long and slow process. It took time to stone grind cacao beans and cook for hours. What really ended the First Wave of Chocolate was the invention of the cocoa press. This created two very important stable products: eating chocolate and cocoa powder. When we think of chocolate these 2 ideas typically come to mind.
If you want to go above and beyond chocolate bars and cocoa powder there are a lot of options. My favorite way to consume chocolate is via chocolate beans. I nibble on lightly roasted chocolate beans. My favorite beans for nibbling originate from Madagascar. I keep these in the car and typically munch on them before my runs or crossfit. I also like the heavily fermented beans from the Dominican Republic for baking, coffee, and smoothies. Great nostalgic nutty flavor. When you ditch the sugar cacao becomes one of the best superfoods on the planet.