I was recently asked why I had not written about chocolate since it is the reigning champion of many of the world’s greatest desserts. I did not intend to be remiss on the subject, so this is my first official salute to chocolate, and it will probably not be the last.
It’s Humble Beginnings
Anthropologists claim that chocolate beverages were first created in 1900 BC by a mysterious people in pre-Olmec times that lived in what is now Mexico. This claim is substantiated by etchings of ecstatic people drinking chocolate beverages. Not much difference between then and now.
Cocoa beans were cultivated for mass consumption by the Aztecs in about 1400 AD. They mixed a bitter, spicy beverage that was on everyone’s menu. Mayan rulers believed that the substance was a mystical gift from the gods and that it should be reserved only for rulers, warriors, and holy men. By the 14th and 15th centuries, the beans were used as currency between the two peoples. Aztec king Montezuma drank an extensive amount of the chocolate drink and both Mayans and Aztecs believed it to be an aphrodisiac. Again, not much difference between then and now.
When Spanish Conqueror Hernando Cortez addressed Aztec king Montezuma, he noticed the king drinking a strange red colored elixir (the Aztecs dyed their chocolate drink red). Cortez tried the drink but found it rather bitter and unpleasant tasting due to the added chili peppers. It wasn’t until the 17th century that Spain and other countries in Europe opened regular trade of cocoa beans. Eventually, the extraction of cocoa butter was achieved in 1828 by Chemist Coenraad van Houten using his broma process. That was the dawn of the chocolate bar. Thank you Coenraad!
Today, the Swiss are the largest consumers of chocolate. Given that Lindt and Nestle’s chocolate companies are located in their country, they are prime targets for choco-holism. Germany, the United States, and Russia appear to be fairly large chocolate consumers with the rest of the world right behind.
I do hope that my high regard for chocolate is illustrated here. If there is any doubt, please note: I had the feature picture for dessert tonight. It was a wonderful hunk of triple chocolate bundt cake with a lovely chocolate icing and hot chocolate with white and dark chocolate chips, marshmallows and whipped cream.