A History of Chocolate
The earliest record of chocolate dates back over fifteen hundred years in the Central American rain forests, where the tropical mix of rain fall combined with high temperatures all year round and humidity provide the ideal climate for cultivation of the plant from which chocolate is derived - the Cacao Tree.
The Cacao Tree was worshipped by the Mayans of Central America, who believed it to be of 'divine origin'. Cacao is actually a Mayan word meaning "God Food" and was corrupted into the more familiar 'Cocoa' by early European explorers. The Maya brewed a spicy, bitter sweet drink by roasting and pounding the seeds of the Cacao tree (cocoa beans) with maize and Capsicum (Chilli) peppers and letting the mixture ferment. This drink was reserved only for special occasions, as well as for drinking by society's elite.
The Aztecs prized the beans, but because they lived further north in more arid regions at higher altitudes where the climate was not suitable for cultivation of the tree, they had to acquire the beans through trade and the spoils of war. The Aztecs prized the beans so highly that they used them as currency. The Aztecs, like the Mayans, also enjoyed Cacao as a beverage fermented from the raw beans, which again was a luxury available only to the very wealthy. The Aztecs called this drink Xocolatl!
The Aztec's regarded chocolate as an aphrodisiac and their Emperor, Montezuma is quoted as saying of Xocolatl: "The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food"
In fact, the Aztec's even prized Xocolatl above Gold and Silver, so much so that when Montezuma was defeated by Cortez in 1519 and the 'conquistadors' searched his palace for the Aztec treasury expecting to find Gold & Silver, all they found were cocoa beans! The Aztec Treasury consisted, not of precious metals, but Cocoa Beans.