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whose name meant "bitter water". The
seeds of the cacao tree have an intense
bitter taste, and must be fermented to
develop the flavor. After being roasted and
ground, the resulting products are known as
chocolate or cocoa.
chocolate Chocolate contains alkaloids such as
theobromine and phenethylamine,
which have physiological effects on the
body. It has been linked to serotonin
levels in the brain. Scientists claim that
chocolate, eaten in moderation, can
lower blood pressure. The presence of
theobromine renders it toxic to some
animals. Chocolate has been used solely as a
drink for nearly all of its history. The
earliest record of using chocolate preearliest
dates the Mayans. Chocolate residue
has been found in pottery dating to
1100 BC from Honduras. Chocolate
was consumed in a bitter, spicy drink
and was often flavored with vanilla,
chile pepper, and annatto.
chile Chocolate was believed to fight fatigue, a belief
that is probably attributable to the theobromine
content. Other chocolate drinks combined it with
such edibles as maize starch paste (which acts
as an emulsifier and thickener), various fruits,
and honey. Chocolate was also an important
luxury good throughout pre-Columbian
Mesoamerica, and cacao beans were often used
as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a
system in which one turkey cost one hundred
cacao beans and one avocado was worth three
beans. Vessels that hold chocolate are often marked
with the Maya glyph (writing or symbol) for cacao.
Many vessels also contain chocolate residue.
Many Aztec Chocolate God
Quetzalcoatl Quetzalcoatl – the mythical ancient Toltec king and god – was part human, part snake and part bird. He had a long, ugly face and colorful feathers. According to the legends, Quetzalcoatl received cocoa as a gift from the gods. In 1519 – the same year in which the Aztecs
predicted that their feathered god Quetzalcoatl
would return – Cortés set foot ashore in Mexico.
would 1528: Cortés imported the first cocoa beans into Spain while the Spanish maintained and stimulated cocoa cultivation in a restricted area in Latin America. They dominated and even monopolized the cocoa market and tried to keep the secret of this new gold to themselves. Cortés led Spanish soldiers to the Aztec capital of
Tenochtitlan in search of golden treasures.
Instead, they found storerooms packed with
valuable cacao seeds.
valuable This vase contains images of two men harvesting cacao
pods, on the far right. To the far left, another man roasts
cacao seeds on a griddle held over a fire, while in the
center a woman grinds seeds into a paste.
center The process for making cacao into chocolate remains
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- Fall '11