For the Love of Chocolate
Most people know that chocolate is made from cocoa and that the origins of chocolate can be traced back to Central and South America. For centuries, the natives there regarded cocoa as a gift from the gods. But how did chocolate go from being the food of the gods to being the food of love?
Around A.D. 600, the Mayas were the main aboriginal group in Central America. They established the first cocoa plantations and used the cocoa bean as the main ingredient in a dark, bitter drink that we would call “chocolate.” The Mayas believed that chocolate had mystical properties---but cocoa also had commercial value. In fact, cocoa beans were used as a form of currency that was worth its weight in gold!
Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez was the first European explorer to realize cocoa's commercial possibilities. When he arrived in the New World in 1519, he soon established his own cocoa plantation. In 1529, Cortez returned to Spain and introduced chocolate---as a drink mixed with sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon---to European society.
It caught on---especially with the nobility, who fancied hot chocolate as an aphrodisiac. As its popularity spread, people found new ways to make and use chocolate. These days, chocolate is enjoyed as both a tasty treat and a romantic indulgence. Whether it is in delectable desserts or crunchy candy, people the world over are still in love with chocolate.