A History of Chocolate

Beloved chocolate as we know it today has history that goes back thousands of years.

Long before modern scientists discovered the little molecules called antioxidants, it was apparent to the ancient civilizations of South America that this was a very special plant. Though they didn’t know the chemistry of it, they understood it’s power.

 

The Mesoamericans made a sacred drink from ground cacao beans.

The Mayans first invented the bitter, frothy beverage made mainly of water, cacao paste, chile peppers, and cornmeal. chileThe Aztecs later had their own versions of the drink, which was used in rituals.

They use the medicinal power cacao for sacred rituals and for every day nourishment. The Aztecs also used cacao beans as currency!

In the 1500s, the Spanish conquistadors defeated Montezuma’s warriors, and gained possession of the sacred and precious cacao beans.

They brought the beans over to Spain, and where the bitter drink was transformed into a heated drink with the addition of sugar, cinnamon, and other spices. It was powerful, but the

 

The sweet beverage was reserved for the Spanish elite. The chocolate craze took over 100 years to spread to other Europe. The demand for it was so high that the cheapest way to get the cacao was through slave labor.

Although some began mixing it with milk in the 1700s, many Europeans still drank the chocolate for its medicinal value, and as an aphrodisiac.

During the industrial age, new machinery was invented to make and mass-produce solid chocolate.

 

 

The Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten invented the cocoa press in 1802.

It squeezed out the cocoa liquor, leaving behind a “cake”, making the chocolate more consistent and cheaper to produce. The heat involved in this process significantly reduced the antioxidant content.

In 1815 he began adding alkalizing salts to the cocoa, so it would mix better with water and taste less bitter. This degraded the chocolate even more!

Henri Nestle and Dan Peter had the brilliant idea of adding milk powder to the chocolate, for a smoother and cheaper treat that became available to the masses.

Dairy has a way of blocking the body from assimilating the good nutrients. Although chocolate was now available to the common woman (and man), it was completely stripped of many inital benefits.

 

The cacao bean of the Mesoamerican medicinal drink was reduced to a heated, pressed, alkalized, milky treat.

When you hear about chocolate antioxidants, remember that only cacao is a whole food. Only in pure form can we take advantage of the tremendous health benefits of the cacao bean. 

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