Chocolate…the great obsession born of the Aztecs

I’ll come clean. I like my chocolate with nuts.

I know, you can stop giggling now…the sexual innuendo is beyond ignoring…but well everyone has at least once in thier lifetime has had a partiality towards chocolate. I figure most people are aware of the fact that chocolate comes from South America, or Meso america . So here’s a bit of trivia about chocolate if you were ever wondering my dear friends. 

A product of the humble cacao beans, and cultivated by the Maya and Aztec, it has long been as a basic component in a variety of sauces and beverages. The cocoa beans were ground and mixed with water to produce a variety of beverages, both sweet and bitter, which were reserved for only the highest noblemen and clerics of the Mesoamerican world.

 The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl who descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink believed to be a health elixir. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, different spices were used to add flavor, even hot chili peppers and corn meal were used. And NO i didn’t just watch CHOCOLAT and come up with this! its all ripped off some justifiable website!

The Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day!

The cocoa beans were used for currency… records show that 400 cocoa beans equaled one Zontli, while 8000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. When the Aztecs conquered tribes, they demanded their payment in cocoa! By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from 1200 show details of cocoa deliveries, imposed on all conquered tribes.

Ok so this Montezuma fellow at his imperial court of Mexico  invited a certain Spaniard to his court named Hernan Cortes. Hernan tried the hot chocolate and decided….lets cop this for our own and do some good ole corporationy style plundering and get these fellers to farm this xocoatl and we’ll spice up the name to chocolate and pay these poor jungle folk a pittance for it. Well Ive added my own version of Arundhati Roy into the mix but the Spanish kept this a secret for almost a hundred years until a coupla Frenchmen and later the Dutch stole the concept and opened choc-houses all over the shop.

Then some English dude got the idea to add milk into chocolate in 1700. and things were going nice and fine….everyone was reaping fine profits since chocolate prices were going through the roof due to high tariffs on chocs…Until a bunch of pirates and ship captains decided to screw everyone and sell cacao beans to a coupla enterprising Americans who set up a mill and well….after that we all kinda lose count because the philandering just kept on going.

But the English were’nt as smart as we all thought.  

1579, English Buccaneers Burn Currency: After taking a Spanish ship loaded with cocoa beans, English Buccaneers set it on fire thinking the beans were sheep dung.

I bet if they saw into the future and saw CADBURY plastered all over the place and making so much money they would have known better. Oh well. Speaking of Cadbury, did you also know that Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory story is based on Roald’s own experience with Cadbury when he was in school. Cadbury used to go to schools and give them candy and make them form “focus groups” and write essays about what they thought. So Roald like most imaginative kids thought of a Mister Cadbury in his magical lab conjuring up all those chocs. Wonky isnt it?

Well, Thats where my little chocolate dessert that I’m working on is drawing from all this history. “Really meh?” I hear you say. yes, I’m not all dollars and cents, I actually have an intense passion for chocolate and handling it and seriously thinking about chocolate. and I’m really eager to infuse all the things i love about chocolate into this chocolate mousse I’m making. It can’t be some generic thing you get from a carrefour box otherwise what’s the point? Why spend time experimenting and asking people to try it when there is no passion for the chocolate? So I’m tinkering with my test-tubes and looking at a coupla MesoAmerican versions of thier choc drink and trying to compare all that with how the Dutch and Belgians do it….

Wish me luck!