Aztecs and Mayans
Mayan Civilization And The Birthplace Of Chocolate
The Mayans of Central America are believed to be the first to discover cocoa as early as 900 AD. They learned that the beans inside the cocoa pods could be harvested and made into a liquid that would become a treasured Mayan treat.
Mayan chocolate was very different than the chocolate we know today. It was a liquid made from crushed cocoa beans, chili peppers, and water. (There was no sugar in Central America.) They poured the liquid from one cup to another until a frothy foam appeared on top. In fact, the word ‘chocolate’ is said to come from the Mayan word ‘xocolatl’ which means ‘bitter water.’
“Food Of The Gods”
It may have been bitter water, but it was held in such high esteem that Mayans called it the “food of the gods.” Cocoa was so revered that images of cocoa pods were painted on the walls of stone temples and Mayan artifacts have been found that show kings and Mayan gods drinking chocolate. Cocoa was often consumed during religious ceremonies and marriage celebrations. All Mayans could enjoy cocoa, regardless of their social status.
chocolate, mayan style
To Make XOCOLATL: (SHOW-CO-LA-TIL)
- Remove beans from cocoa pods.
- Ferment and dry them.
- Roast them on a griddle until done.
- Remove the shells and grind the seeds into a fine paste.
- Mix paste with water, chili peppers, and cornmeal.
- Pour the resulting concoction back and forth from pot to cup until frothy foam develops on top.
- Serve with pride in finely decorated earthenware cups.
A Coffee Shop On Every Corner
Cocoa was the frothy drink of its day, highly valued for its healing and medicinal properties. Mayans would whip up a mix, and people would enjoy it the same way we enjoy coffee today.
Chocolate And Commerce
Cocoa quickly became the force of the Aztec economy. The demand for the cocoa bean and the beverage that it produced brought about a huge network of trade routes throughout the region.
When the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they were forced to pay taxes to the Aztecs. These taxes were called “tributes” and they were paid in cocoa, so the Aztecs, who couldn’t grow their own cocoa, would always have a supply.
Cocoa beans were kept in locked boxes in businesses, and some enterprising Aztecs actually made counterfeit cocoa beans.
Cocoa bean exchange rate
4 beans = 1 pumpkin
10 beans = 1 rabbit