Cacao History

Cacao History

Cacao has a long long long history, long before Cadburys, long before the war and long before anything we knew. It is the backbone to our culture.

Known as the Tree of the Gods, Cacao comes from the Theobroma Tree which is native to the Amazon Basin. It was domesticated by the Olmecs and Mokaya (Mexico and Central America). More than 4,000 years ago, it was consumed by pre-Columbian cultures along the Yucatán, including the Maya, and as far back as Olmeca civilization in spiritual ceremonies.

It also grows in the foothills of the Andes in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, in Colombia and Venezuela. Wild cacao still grows there. Its range may have been larger in the past; evidence of its wild range may be obscured by cultivation of the tree in these areas since long before the Spanish arrived.

As part of the Mayan creation myth. Popol Vuh. It was one of the ingredients, along with corn, used by thegods to make the first humans. It was made by the gods so that they could be worshipped by them. To them, it was the essence of humanity, and as such, it became a ceremonial elixir. Due to its aphrodisiac qualities (it contains Tryptothan - a building block of Serotonin and phenylethylamine, a part of amphetamine, which are both associated with good mood and feelings of love). Maya couples would drink cacao at their engagement or marriage ceremonies.

There has been recent evidence to suggest that cacao was first domesticated in equatorial South America, before being domesticated in Central America roughly 1,500 years later. Artifacts found at Santa-Ana-La Florida, in Ecuador, indicate that the Mayo-Chinchipe people were cultivating cacao as long as 5,300 years ago. Chemical analysis of residue extracted from pottery excavated at an archaeological site at Puerto Escondido, in Honduras, indicates that cocoa products were first consumed there sometime between 1500 and 1400 BC. Evidence also indicates that, long before the flavor of the cacao seed (or bean) became popular, the sweet pulp of the chocolate fruit, used in making a fermented (5.34% alcohol) beverage, first drew attention to the plant in the Americas. The term money grows on trees, really does come into its own, when you consider Cacao bean which was a common currency throughout Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest.

Cocoa was an important commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. A Spanish soldier who was part of the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés tells that when Moctezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, dined, he took no other beverage than chocolate, served in a golden goblet. Flavored with vanilla or other spices, his chocolate was whipped into a froth that dissolved in the mouth. No fewer than 60 portions each day reportedly may have been consumed by Moctezuma II, and 2,000 more by the nobles of his court.

Mayan and Aztec are the two main histories we know about Cacao, and in Aztec mythology, the god name Quetzalcaoatl brought down the cacao tree from heaven to Earth, and why the drink made from dried and fermented cacao beans was thought to bring wisdom. The Aztecs drank it cold with corn, chilli and vanilla. Achiote - another spice, was then used to give the chocolate its red colour.

At the end of the day, it was sheer brilliance that someone chose to look deeper than th white layer of pulp you would see when you crack a pod open, because they brought one of the best natural superfoods to our lips. Whether its Mayan and Aztec mythology, you cannot deny the power cacao has over our world now, and the benefits it has to fit into our lives to promote positive wellbeing and fitness. So, from then to forever, it really is a Tree of the Gods and should be seen as such... So drink up!

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