Chocolates & Ice Cream
Cacao almost certainly originated in NW Amazon Basin, have
spread it from Ecuador into Soconusco, taken north to San
Lorenzo, Meso America’s first city
1800 – 1400 BCE Soconosco region, First
documented use of processed chocolate, decorated pottery
containing remnants of chocolate.
Olmecs 1500 – 400 BCE Chiapas, Guatemala
Known for the Giant Heads of their kings Spoke Mixe-
Zoquean, from which the term Kakawa derives
Classic Maya 250 – 900 CE
Not just drinks, they also made gruels of maize and chocolate
which was important for quick energy.
“The idea of a chocolate-enriched corn gruel also survives
today in the universally popular Mexican champurrado, and its
many Latin American cousins like the chorote of Tabasco and
the Ecuadorian chocolate con machica. “ Maricel Presilla The
New Taste of Chocolate”
Beans were used as currency, traded throughout MesoAmerica.
No information exists concerning whether the common people
enjoyed cacao, or how.
Traders and social climbers included cacao in all their feasts,
which were held often, and were expected to be reciprocated
by all invited guests.
During the month of Muan, plantation owners held a festival to
Ek Chuakh, god of comerce and cacao, which included a
sacrifice of a cacao-colored dog, and gifting to officials of
Fun Fact: an urn found in a small structure in Balberta, 45 miles from Guatemala City, dating from the Classic Maya period, held a stash of counterfeit beans created out of local clay with all the variation of individual beans, so lifelike that they fooled the excavators and first set of experts who examined them, who thought that they were criollo beans.
First Contact: Columbus’s fourth voyage in 1502, looking for Jamaica, he ended up instead off the island of Guanaja, now one of the Bay Islands north of Honduras, where he encountered a huge Mayan trading canoe, filled with their horrific flat war clubs studded with obsidian, axes and bells of copper, roots, grains, and cacao beans; of course he had no idea what they were, except that the natives always seemed very concerned about any that fell.
Fun Fact: Columbus died four years later, never having tasted chocolate!
1517 Yucatan, 1519 Mexico
Cortez found Tenochtitlan, population 200,000 making it one of the largest cities in the world at that time.
The Royal Storehouse was a combination of Fort Knox and the wine cellar of Louis IV.
It held 960 million beans. Apparently 2,000 containers of cacao were needed each day to supply just the soldiers of Motecuhzoma’s guard. One famous pillaging of the storehouse was done by Pedro De Alvarado. It took 300 natives all night long to take about 5 % of the entire store.
Spaniards did not instantly take to this drink, as summed up by the following quote from a history written in 1575:
“It seemed more of a drink for pigs than a drink for humanity. I was in the country for more than a year, and never wanted to taste it, and whenever I passed a settlement, some Indian
would offer me a drink of it, and would be amazed when I would not accept, going away laughing. But then, as there was a shortage of wine, so as not to be always drinking water, I did
like the others. The taste is somewhat bitter, it satisfies and refreshes the body, but does not inebriate, and it is the best and most expensive merchandise, according to the Indians of the
But they started using their own flavoring, including sugar, which was imported on Columbus’ second voyage, and cinnamon, anise, black pepper, replacing the Mexican chillis, flowers and achiote.
They also brought the Molinillo, the long wooden swizzle stick, replacing the process of pouring the chocolate back and forth between two vessels to produce a froth.
Initial distaste for all New World foods was overcome slowly, as Spaniards married locals and customs and language mingled.
Europe in the 16th century was experiencing interesting times:
The Spanish Inquisition was still burning Jews and heretics;
The Protestant reformation and counter Reformation forces were in a bitter and violent rivalry;
Italy was fractured, southern Italy and Sicily held by the Spanish, the north was a collection of small kingdoms, and even the Pope needed his own army.
England was separating from the Pope, became Anglican, then during the 17th century was in the midst of their civil war just about the time that Chocolate found its way there;
And all this time the most advanced medical “knowledge” consisted of Classical Greek theories, originating with Hippocrates, the major theory being that the body held four ‘humors’: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile, which had to be in balance. Humors could either be cold, hot, dry or moist, and drugs or food were also either cold, how, dry or moist… Blood being Hot and Moist, Cacao was classified by Phillip II’s physician as Cold and Moist.
These designations were quite important to the Spanish, who were apparently obsessed with health, and chocolate was regarded as a drug as much a drink or foodstuff.
The first official shipment of cacao arrived in Spain in 1585, although there was documentation of a delegation of Maya nobles visiting Prince Phillip with receptacles of beaten chocolate in 1544. Michael Coe (A True History of Chocolate ) speculates that trading vessels might have brought some back to monasteries during the intervening decades.
Chocolate was kept pretty much as a Spanish secret for nearly a hundred years before it found its way into the rest of Europe from one Royal court to another.
France's likely introduction was medicinal, for Cardinal Richelieu, for his spleen problems, and acquired through Spanish monks.
In 1659 a patent gave one individual exclusive rights to sell chocolate throughout France, and in 1660 the Sun King married Maria Teresa who brought her retinue of Spanish ladies, all of whom drank chocolate ~ although in secret at first, as the King did not approve. However, within ten years chocolate consumption was widespread among the aristocratic women, and was soon served at royal functions.
England caught up with the chocolate drinking world in the 1650’s along with coffee and tea during the Oliver Cromwell period. In 1655 Cromwell’s forces captured Jamaica with its cacao plantations.
Coffee had arrived earlier in the century, as a Hot and Dry medicine; tea was ‘moderately hot and dry’ and good for colds, headaches, asthma, palpitations, gout, and kidney stones.
Privately owned shops sold these hot drinks to anyone who had the money, and by the end of the 17th century it had travelled, either via England or directly from Jamaica, to the
In England, chocolate, coffee and tea were served in coffee houses, where politics and science were discussed, but in America it was taken at home for breakfast.
When Soconusco, the cradle of excellent quality criollo cacao, was ravaged by pestilence and production dropped way off, Forestero beans from Ecuador, being cheaper because of their inherent qualities of larger beans and harvests as well as slave labor, began to infiltrate the Mexican markets, taking over 40% of market share with their cacao de los pobres, and chocolate was finally within reach of common people, although not nearly the quality of the Venezuelan and Soconuscan Criollo.
Fun Fact: Jesuits, the “Company of Jesus”, profited greatly from their holdings, in which they would minister to the natives by forcing them to work their plantations for tobacco, cotton, and cacao. They sent them out to collect the inferior Forestero beans along the Amazon, until they were largely wiped out by smallpox and measles in 1740’s and 50’s. One story has the Jesuits shipping a large, heavy crate full of chocolate bars, but when inspected they turned out to be gold bars coated in chocolate. Then in 1759 they were expelled from Portugal and Brazil, as well as all the Spanish possessions ~ not for horribly exploiting the natives, but for undermining royal power.
For a long time in Europe there seemed to be a bit of as divide between drinkers of Chocolate and drinkers of Coffee.
Chocolate was elitist, Catholic, and southern; while coffee was bourgeois, northern, Protestant.
Monseigneur, one of the great lords in power at the Court, held his fortnightly reception in his grand hotel in Paris. Monseigneur was in his inner room, his sanctuary of sanctuaries, the Holiest of Holiests to the crowd of worshippers in the suite of rooms without. Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate. Monseigneur could swallow a great many things with ease, and was by some few sullen minds supposed to be rather rapidly swallowing France; but, his morning's chocolate could not so much as get into the throat of Monseigneur, without the aid of four strong men besides the Cook.
Yes. It took four men, all four ablaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket, emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by Monseigneur, to conduct the happy chocolate to Monseigneur's lips. One lacquey carried the chocolate-pot into the sacred presence; a second, milled and frothed the chocolate with the little instrument he bore for that function; a third, presented the favoured napkin; a fourth (he of the two gold watches), poured the chocolate out. It was impossible for Monseigneur to dispense with one of these attendants on the chocolate and hold his high place under the admiring Heavens. Deep would have been the blot upon his escutcheon if his chocolate had been ignobly waited on by only three men; he must have died of two.
Charles Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities
However, Britain was far more democratic about their chocolate consumption. There, men gathered at social clubs like White’s to argue about politics and drink chocolate or coffee, tea, beer, wine etc.
According to Diderot’s Encyclopedia, the method of processing chocolate had not changed from the Olmecs to the mid 18th century, when the Industrial Revolution began to change things