The history of chocolate

The long and sweet path of the delicious chocolate dessert

The delicious secret of cоcоа tree was revealed more than 2,000 years ago in the tropical forests of Central and Southern America. The Maya civilization developed in an area that encompasses Mexico and Central America, are the first people who consumed chocolate. They used to blend the cocoa beans with various spices and then produced an aromatic sparkling drink which they drank from large cups. The cocoa played an important role not only in their food culture, but in their religious and social lives. Priests used cocoa at sacrifices and during sacred ceremonies and rituals. Cocoa pods were a symbol of fertility and life. Even today there are preserved frescoes, drawings and objects that show how important was the cоcоа to the Mayan culture.

In the 14th century the Aztecs began to trade with the Mayans, the main goods of their commercial relationships being cocoa. Aztecs are the first to start using cocoa beans as a method of payment. They also enjoyed the cocoa as a drink, but unlike the Mayans where only the privileged individuals had the right to touch the "food of the gods," in the Aztecs it was also available to the lower classes. The first meet of Europeans with cocoa and chocolate was at the beginning of the XVI century. And although Columbus first brought the valuable cocoa beans to the Old Continent, the main merit of promoting the chocolate drink in Europe was the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes who experimented with the Aztec drink by adding cane sugar and spices to make it attractive for the Spaniard's palate. Chocolate quickly became popular as a hot beverage with vanilla and cinnamon. The cocoa importation was expensive and for many years symbolized the whims of the higher society in Europe. The European aristocracy has created its own chocolate drink protocol. For this purpose, precious porcelain vessels and silver trays were produced as another proof of well-being, class and strength. For several centuries, chocolate remains a luxury that only the elite of society can afford. At the end of the 19th century, the industrial revolution led to many inventions that made it faster and cheaper. The development of new technologies and machines improve the quality of chocolate and the speed of its production. It turned out that there is a way to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder, as well as a method of mixing cocoa with milk, and the solid chocolate just as we know it today.
The cocoa tree blooms and gives fruits throughout the year. Both the pods and the fruits grow directly from the stem and the thicker branches. A single tree can have up to 50,000 pods per year. They are very beautiful, but they have neither scent nor taste, which makes them unattractive for insects. For this reason, only one in a thousand succeeds to convert into cocoa fruit. The cocoa fruit is a pod, between 12 and 30 centimetres in length, and about a dozen centimetres, in the shape of a melon. Each pod has between 30 and 50 grains, which are enough for about 7 chocolate. The flower of the cocoa fruit varies in the color gamma between yellow and red. Depending on the type of cocoa, the fruit needs from 4 to 8 months to ripen. Due to the difficult pollination, the annual yield of a tree is no more than ten kilos. The harvest is throughout the year, but the main seasons are from November to January and from May to July. It is done by hand and the pods are cut with a machete. The nipples are then removed from the pods and placed in boxes or between palm leaves to ferment. Within 5-6 days, sugar in the beans turns into an alcohol and this process changes the taste of cocoa beans. If they do not ferment they cannot get a chocolate flavour.