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According to the Maya chocolate was given to the people after the Sovereign Plumed Serpent God created them from maize. Mayan word for chocolate was xocoatl. They also made a Maya Chocolate drink called chocolatl made of roasted cocoa beans, water and spice. Maya also used cocoa beans as currency. Because of the cocoa beans value they were given as gifts for special events and religious ceremonies.
The Olmec Indians are thought to be the first to grow cocoa beans as a domestic crop. The consumption of the cocoa bean was restricted to the Mayan society's elite. Over the years cocoa has even been used as an aphrodisiac and for medicinal purposes.
Contemporary research suggests that dark chocolate is a healthful addition to the diet in small quantities, due to its antioxidant properties.
Chocolate is being marketed now in a similar manner to the way coffee is promoted, as a luxury item that is affordable enough to consume daily. There are entire displays and even shops devoted to the sale of dozens of varieties of specialty chocolate.
Both cocoa and chocolate originate from the cacao bean, which is widely grown in Central America, South America, the West Indies, and parts of Africa.
The tree is a tropical evergreen, and the cacao fruit is a cucumber-shaped pod which grows directly out of the tree. In the pod are many almond-shaped seeds called cacao beans.
The beans are taken out of the pods and fermented, making it easier to remove the pulp which clings to the beans. The beans are then cleaned, dried, and packed for shipment worldwide.
In making cocoa powder, the beans are roasted and then ground between heated rollers. The heat causes the cocoa mass to melt and flow out of the rollers into deep pans. The cocoa mass then hardens, is remelted, and then pressed to remove the fat. The solid mass that is left is then ground and sifted into a reddish-brown powder known as cocoa powder. Cocoa butter is the fat that flows out of the cocoa mass and it becomes the basis for chocolate.
It was the Europeans who developed and refined the chocolate process over the centuries to make the rich, decadent confections of today!
This plant is native to the New World -- some kinds are native to South America, others to Central America. It was discovered by Europeans when the Spanish invaded what is now Mexico. It had been drunk by the Aztecs, but not as a sweet like we now use it.
Considered a luxury good, cocoa was often used as currency in the tribes of indigenous Americans.
Cocoa powder and cocoa butter began to be used since 1828, when Coenraad Johannes van Houten, from Germany, invented a method by which to separate the cocoa bean composition.
The first commercial transport of cocoa beans, from America to Europe was made in 1585. Cocoa was then consumed in the form of drinks.
Chocolate, as it is consumed today, in solid form, was invented in late 18th century, in Torino, Italy.
The cacao or cocoa tree is a small evergreen tree that originated in the Amazon jungle and was distributed to Central America and Mesoamerica. Its seeds are used to produce cocoa and chocolate.
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