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It's hard to find someone who doesn't like chocolate. We love it for its great taste and smell. Chocolate improves mood and gives vigor. To understand why chocolate still captures the imaginations of millions of people around the world, it is worth taking a journey through time and space.

Let's move to Belize in the southeastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula and let's set the clocks back some 2,500 years. One of the greatest pre-Columbian cultures - the Maya civilization - is just beginning to flourish. And the favorite drink of the local elite ischocolatewith … foam. It must have resembled the one served, for example, in Blikle's confectionery in Warsaw, but it tasted different. Grinded beanscocoa beansThe Maya mixed it with spicy chili peppers and honey from wild bees or corn. And to get appetizing foam, they repeatedly poured the liquid from the vessel into the vessel. This bitter and aromatic drink was an indispensable element of state celebrations. It was also used to raise ritual toasts during wedding ceremonies. And when taking the marriage oath, the bride and groom gave each other a few beanscocoaas a sign of love. Cocoa seeds were also legal tender, eg a rabbit cost 10 grains and a slave 100. Recent studies, however, suggest that the history of chocolate goes back even more ancient times. Linguists found the roots of the word cacao in the Olmec language - the tribe that founded the first civilization in modern Mexico. This means that cocoa trees were already cultivated around the 10th century BC. When the Mayans, and then the Aztecs, inhabited this area after the Olmecs, they received a priceless inheritance - cocoa plantations and the tradition of making chocolate.

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Cocoa beans - Spanish trophy

How did cocoa come to Europe? Some attribute the merits to the Spaniard Hernan Cortez, who, with a detachment of 500 soldiers, conquered and captured the territory of the Aztec state in Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula in Central America in 1519-24. The cocoa beans were given to the conquistador by King Montezuma II. But the first European to appreciate the value of cocoa beans - although he did not like the drink made from it - was Christopher Columbus. During his last voyage to the New World, the sailor reached the island of Guanaja, located 50 kmfrom Honduras. From there he took the seeds of an unfamiliar plant that the Indians called cacao. Thanks to Columbus' son Ferdinand, we know exactly when it happened. In a diary he kept on August 15, 1502, he described how the Indians brought cocoa beans aboard a Spanish galleon: "They must have been of great value to them, for I saw that if any of these almonds fell, they would all stop to pick it up. as if they were looking for their own eye ".


Theobroma cacao- a species of evergreen tree from the stiff family grows only in the tropics. It requires a hot, humid climate and plenty of shade. It reaches a height of about 10-15 m. It has leathery, dark green leaves and small pink flowers. The shape of the cocoa fruit resembles a cucumber. It is approx. 20-30 cm long. It is sweet, unlike the seeds hidden in its white flesh. Each cocoa fruit contains 30-40 reddish or brown beans, 2-3 cm in size. It is from them that today cocoa, cocoa butter and chocolate are made. The first plantation was probably established in the jungles of South and Central America. In the mid-17th century, the Dutch moved cocoa seedlings to their colonies in Java and Sumatra, and then cultivated them in the Philippines, New Guinea, Samoa and Indonesia. In the 19th century, cocoa beans were also harvested in West Africa, Cameroon and Sri Lanka. Currently, cocoa is cultivated practically throughout the tropics, and the largest harvest is the Ivory Coast and Malaysia.

Stolen Chocolate Recipe

The Indian delicacy intrigued the discoverers of the New World, but it took decades for them to really appreciate its value. One traveler, traveling through the Yucatan Peninsula in 1575, wrote: “How many times have I passed through the settlement, the Indians asked me to drink chocolate. When I refused, they walked away, laughing, very amused. However, when the wine ran out, I did as the others. The taste is a bit bitter, and the drink itself satisfies and enlivens the body, but you can't get drunk with it. "Seeing the great potential hidden in cocoa beans, the Spaniards began to experiment: instead of using cold water, they mixed cocoa powder with boiling water, gave up chili and honey, and They added sugar (at first only cane sugar), vanilla, cinnamon, anise and pepper. The custom of pouring the drink from dish to dish was abandoned - the foam was obtained by mixing the liquid with a special wooden pan. Chocolate modified in this way conquered the Spanish court, and then the whole of Europe - although it was not without criminal scandals. The dignitaries visiting Madrid enjoyed the aroma andthe taste of a dark brown drink, and the legend of its unusual properties quickly spread throughout Europe. Unfortunately - you could only drink chocolate at the Spanish court, and the secret of its preparation was a state secret. The recipes were kept for many years until a cunning Florentine managed to steal it. Then the world went crazy about the chocolate drink.

Chocolate is forbidden under pain of excommunication

The magical power of chocolate even began to bother church officials. The Spanish ladies who accompanied the colonizers of Mexico in the 17th century liked this drink so much that they drank it even during mass. Indian servants brought them jugs of freshly prepared drink to the church. The ladies claimed that only thanks to this they were able to withstand the hardships associated with a long and complicated liturgy. The bishop of Chiapa Real (now San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico) decided to put an end to this outrageous custom by displaying a ban on drinking chocolate on the door of the cathedral on pain of excommunication. He only achieved so much that the faithful began to bypass the cathedral and went to mass in a Dominican monastery, the prior of which had much more liberal views on chocolate. Legend has it that the strict bishop soon became seriously ill and died in agony, apparently poisoned. And the poison was given to him in a mug of chocolate …


God's tree

Quetzalcoatl, the Feather Serpent - god of the sun, wind and breath of life - drank a refreshing drink made from the seeds of a certain tree growing in the tropical forests of Central America. Perhaps it is from the name of this Aztec deity, most gracious to people, that the name of chocolate comes from: cacahu alt, chocolatl. In the language of the inhabitants of the Amazon jungle, this drink was called similarly - xococ alt, but it meant bitter water. In 1737, the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linne (Charles Linnaeus) gave the cocoa tree the Latin name Theobroma (Greek: drink of the gods) cacao.

The custom of drinking chocolate in the courts of Europe

At the French court, the custom of drinking chocolate was introduced by the Spanish princess Anna, called the Austrian (she came from the part of the Habsburg family that ruled Spain), who married Louis XIII in 1615 - beautifully immortalized by Alexander Dumas in The Three Musketeers. The taste of this unusual drink could be enjoyed by Cardinal Armand Jean Richelieu, who plotted against the queen. But it certainly did not cost the worship of Anna Athos, Portos, Aramis and D'Artagnan - because the poor musketeers could not afford such an expensive extravagance. The Mayan and Aztec drink will be available only to the elite for several hundred years to come. The chocolate we drink todaythe English propagated after a Frenchman in 1657 opened a pump room for "a fine West Indian drink" in London on Bishopsgate Street. The water was replaced with milk and - to obtain a velvety, thick consistency - eggs grated with sugar were added. The delicacy was so expensive that the famous writer Samuel Pepys did not try it for the first time in 1662, and since then he has regularly visited the chocolate shop for "his morning sip of chocolate". A great lover of chocolate was Augustus II of Saxony - the first representative of the Wettin dynasty ruling in Saxony, who sat on the Polish throne. It was probably he who introduced the fashion for drinking chocolate on the Vistula River. It was in the first decade of the 18th century. The first original, Polish drinking chocolate was created around 1859. The creator of its recipe was the progenitor of the most famous Polish confectioners, Ernest Karol Wedel. Its composition is one of the company's best-kept secrets to this day.

Chocolate products

No fancy social gathering could go without a cup of steaming chocolate. But cocoa has also started to be used in other dishes and desserts. Already in the mid-seventeenth century, the first bars were made of ground and pressed grain with the addition of nuts, dried fruit and … flowers. Chocolate pastilles and ice cream were also made, and the Italians prepared even soups and pasta with cocoa powder. The famous and beloved pralines were invented in 1679 by the French chef of Marshal du Plessis-Praslin. Work on improving the technology of cocoa seeds processing was also continued. The grain was ground to powder and kneaded with the addition of sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, musky aroma and annatto. The mass obtained in this way contained a lot of fat, which was deposited on the surface and did not look appetizing. Attempts have been made to reduce the content of this fat. But the real success had to wait. The Dutch managed to do it. In 1824, the chemist Coenraad van Houten perfected the hydraulic press for cocoa liquor. He managed to squeeze out 50 percent of the butter, creating a clean, crumbly cake that was ground into the cocoa powder we use today. From there, it was close to the creation of the first chocolate bar. It was produced in England in 1846 by Joseph Fry. The J S Fry company (now part of the Cadbury empire) was the first to start making chocolate Easter eggs in 1873. Thanks to the invention of van Houten, cocoa products became available not only to the select few, but were still a luxury product. At the end of the 19th century, the Swiss joined the leaders in the chocolate industry. In 1875, Daniel Peter produced the first milk chocolate,using the still warm invention of Henri Nestle - condensed milk. This allowed for further experiments. Producers began to outdo each other in new ideas. The resulting filled, puffed and white chocolates. Today, the list of chocolate products includes several thousand items and new products appear every year.

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