The drink of the gods and chocolate of today
The Mayans shared with the Aztecs the secret of preparing their divine drink, “chocolate.” To prepare it, the cocoa beans were milled until they were reduced to powder, mixed with cold water and stirred until the foam rose.
For the Mayans, the days began with a thick bitter cocoa drink and sparkling brew. Grains were used to seal marriage vows, children were baptized in water containing flowers and cocoa beans, brides of kings offered their husbands jars of foamy drink and respectable dead were accompanied to their graves with painted cylindrical jars full of cocoa
At the time of the Spanish conquest with a chocolate bean it was possible to buy an avocado or a tamale, with three grains a fish, with a hundred to a slave. It is known that for the Aztecs and Mayans at the time of the conquest the cocoa seeds circulated as currency, so it was an incredible time “when money grew on trees”.
The Maya cultivated it from the mid-pre-Classic period (600-300 BC), on the Pacific coast, in northern Belize and in the lowlands of Tabasco, areas where rainfall, soil and climate offer conditions favorable for its delicate growth.
In the Yucatan peninsula they found in their place for production, depressions full of cenotes water. The cocoa was dispersed naturally or by its transport by man, to the north of South America and Central America.
The cacao plant (theobroma, cocoa) offers elongated pods containing seeds, which are the basis of products made with chocolate. This plant can only grow in the tropical lowlands, where frost does not reach. The first evidences of its human use are found in Mexican territory, in pre-Hispanic cultures. The Swedish botanist Carl von Linne in the eighteenth century called cocoa “Theobroma” a Greek word meaning “food of the gods”, and cocoa to the bush from which the seeds are obtained. In pre-Columbian times, the most exquisite cacao was produced by the plain of the Soconusco, a coastal area of Chiapas and Guatemala. When the Aztecs established their empire, as they could not cultivate in the altiplano, they sent their armies to conquer the soconusco, and to be able to collect the production of cocoa.
Among the Maya and the Aztecs, chocolate was a prestigious drink, reserved for royalty, nobility, merchants, and high-ranking warrior officers. Towards the year 450 d. c began to place glasses with hieroglyphic texts in which the particular flavor of the chocolate served is described. In fact, almost all the cylindrical vases painted or carved in the classic Mayan burials were chocolate containers
Chocolate, like many other words ending in … ate, comes from the Nahuatl / Aztec language. Chocolate comes from Xoco (sour) and atl (water).
Hernán Cortés met the chocolate at Moctezuma’s table, where he was invited to drink it, as it is one of the emperor’s favorite drinks. Then it was prepared directly from the roasted beans, obtaining a very thick and greasy paste, since the cocoa seeds contain half of their weight in oils called “cocoa butter”. Xocoatl Azteca was appreciated not only for its flavor, but for its stimulating value. The Mexicans sweetened it by adding wild honey and flavored it with a little vanilla. Carlos I of Spain had the idea of mixing cocoa with sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and thus obtained a treat more pleasing to Europeans, thus giving birth to the modern chocolate that we enjoy today.