Xocolatl: Ancient Chocolate

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For years throughout time, we have had a friend that has accompanied us in the good and the bad, through depressions and celebrations.. we have received it as presents and admired it in shop-windows.. such loyal friend is older than we can imagine and trust me it’s here to stay. Yes we are talking about Chocolate.

Chocolate is the mix of cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, powdered milk, fresh milk and other ingredients such as nuts and dried fruits. In general we find three types of chocolate, dark chocolate (low in sugar and milk content and high in cocoa butter), milk chocolate (mix of cocoa and milk)  and white chocolate (only cocoa butter, sugar and powdered milk).

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Cocoa beans grow in three types of cob plants: Criollo, known for being the highest quality and low tannin bean; Forastero which is the mostly grown due to the resistance of the plant and Trinitario which is a the result of a mix between Criollo and Forastero that was originated during a hurricane in Trinidad . The global production of cacao surpasses the 2.8 million tons a year of which 70% is grown in Africa.

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The scientific name given to cocoa is Theobroma Cacao which comes from the Greek θεος (theos), meaning “god,” and βρῶμα (broma), meaning “food”. The word chocolate comes from the word Xocolatl that means bitter water. The Olmecas (1500 a 400 B.C.) were the first individuals to savor chocolate. The cocoa beans were crushed then macerated with hot water, some spice like chilli and cinnamon was added but was in general it was a bitter, spicy drink. This tradition continued with the Mayan (600 B.C.) and the Aztecs (1400 B.C.) but by then the cocoa beans were used as monetary means to buy all sorts of goodies and thus it was a luxury just for the high class, priests and warriors.

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Hernan Cortes was responsible for the expansion of cocoa when he brought it from Mexico to Spain and royalty was charmed by it, however they added cane sugar and vanilla to mellow down the bitterness and spice. In 1585 the first official shipment of cacao beans arrived from New Spain (Mexico) but it was until 1659 that the first chocolaterie opened in Paris.

As crazy at it is chocolate as a sweet treat was first imported in America until 1765 even though their southern neighbors have had it for centuries.

Years later, around the 1830’s the British created the first chocolate tablet as we know them today. During these years the famous Henri Nestlé and Rodolphe Lindt pushed Switzerland as a chocolate rockstar.

Heinrich Nestlé

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Rudolf Lindt

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There is a whole world behind chocolate, this is just the begining. Keep posted there’s more on chocolate coming soon!

Happy Valentine’s!

Your host,

Italia

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