Cocoa was one most successful products that was part of the so called “Columbian exchange” which refers to the interchange of products from the Americas to Europe and vice versa.
Theobroma cacao was domesticated circa 1750 BC years ago in southern Mexico. It was greatly appreciated for its nutritional and medicinal qualities, so much so that its seeds were used as money well into the Colony after the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
This image is the glyph of the Mayan word “Kakau” (Dresden Codex)
Seeds were toasted then grounded to prepare a refreshing drink with water, spiced with pepper and dried chillies.
During the Colony the traditional “chocolatl” (chocolate in Nahuatl) went through a significant change, water, pepper and chillies were substituted by milk, sugar and cinnamon, and instead of being consumed as a refreshment it became a hot drink.
Last year I was treated with a visit to Hampton Court Palace where I had the opportunity to discover the very interesting Chocolate Kitchen that was recently reopened.
As part of the Baroque building at Hampton Court Palace, the Chocolate Kitchen was built for William and Mary, around 1689, but mainly served the Georgian kings. We follow the story of chocolate made for George I by his own personal chocolate maker Thomas Tosier. (Keep reading here)
Cocoa and chocolate have come a long way, from being a ceremonial drink in ancient Mexico to become the most popular daily treat of choice of millions around the world. Next time you open a chocolate bar, remember you are indeed enjoying thousands of culinary changes in every bite.