The Origins of Chocolate
The Origins of Chocolate   Gourmet chocolate covered Costa Rica coffee beans. Delicious gourmet chocolates, nuts and sweets

Cacao has been cultivated for thousands of years in Mexico, Central and South America.  Aside from its gastronomic and nutritional importance, chocolate, the cacao tree and its pods and seeds have played a pivotal role in many cultures. Cacao is documented as one of the first foods, a sacred tree and an offering to the gods.

The Aztecs and Maya used cacao beans along with chilies, herbs and cornmeal to make a bitter drink that was believed to enhance virility and help fertility. 

One of the first clues that the deities required chocolate and cacao comes from the Popol Vuh, the quiche Maya's sixteenth-century book of creation. It draws on even more ancient sources to describe the creation of the world.

Imagery of cacao pods appears on monuments at various sites throughout the ancient cacao-growing areas along the Pacific plateaus of Mexico and Guatemala. Obsession with time and calendar fueled rituals that included offerings of cacao to ensure the continuation of cosmic and agricultural cycles.

The therapeutic and nutritional properties of cacao have also been at the forefront of human knowledge since remote antiquity. The Maya, Aztecs, and other Mexican peoples transformed every manifestation of the cacao tree – the seed, leaf, bark, oil (or butter) and flower – into effective medicines.

Cacao beans were introduced to the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés who brought them back to Europe where sugar was added to offset the bitter flavor.  This was the beginning of a long love affair with one of the most popular delicacies in the world.