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The History of Chocolate

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Do you like chocolate? Who doesn’t like chocolate? Chocolate is a favorite food of many people, but only few people know about the history of chocolate. That is why I am going to ask you to explore the history of chocolate by reading this essay. The history of chocolate begins with a plant whose scientific name is theobroma cacao which means “food of the gods”. According to the historians, the Mayan in Central America is the first who learned to plant the cacao plants around 2.000 years ago. The Maya took the cacao trees from the rainforests and plant them around home. They cooked the cacao seeds then crushed them into a soft paste. They mixed the paste with water and flavorful spices to make an unsweetened chocolate drink. Cacao and chocolate were an important part of Maya culture. There are many images of cacao plants found on Maya buildings and art objects. Royal families drank chocolate at ceremonies. Even poor families of Mayan could enjoy the chocolate drink once in a while. Historians tell us that cacao seeds also used in marriage ceremonies as the sign of the union between a husband and wife.

The Aztec culture in Mexico also valued chocolate. Unfortunately, cacao plants could not grow in the land where the Aztec lived, so they traded to get cacao plants. They even used cacao seeds as money to pay taxes. Only the very wealthy people of Aztec that could afford to enjoy chocolate drink because cacao was very valuable. The Aztec authority, Montezuma, believed that they had to drink 50 cups of chocolate drink every day. Some experts believe that the word “chocolate” came from the Aztec word “xocolatl”, which means “bitter water” in the Nahuatl language. It was spelled variously as “chocalatall”, “jocolatte”, “jacolatte” and “chockelet”. Others believe the word “chocolate” was formed by combining the words of Mayan and Nahuatl. When the explorer Christopher Columbus did his fourth trip to Central America in 1502, he encountered a great Mayan trading canoe on the island of Guanaja, Honduras, carrying a cargo of cocoa seeds. Then Christopher Columbus brought cacao seeds to Spain. He presented the King and Queen of Spain with the cacao seeds, but Ferdinand and Isabella saw no worth in them. It was Hernando Cortez, a Spanish, who understood that chocolate which was made from cacao seeds, was valuable and could be commercialized.

In 1519, Cortez arrived in Mexico. He believed that chocolate drink would be popular with Spaniards. Then, chocolate became very popular in Spain, so they needed to supply more cacao seeds. When the Spanish soldiers defeated with the Aztec empire in 1527 or 1528, the Spanish soldiers won the war, so they were able to seize the supplies of cacao, equipments and recipes from the Aztec to bring them home. Later, Spain began planting the cacao seeds in its colonies in order to supply the large demand for chocolate. Before, chocolate drink was made unsweetened, and it was Spanish court of King Charles V and the wealthy people in Spain who became the first people that enjoyed chocolate drink in sweetened version. It was greeted with excitement. At first, monks, hidden away in Spanish monasteries, are appointed as the processors of cocoa seeds to keep chocolate a secret for nearly another century. Hernando Cortez built a cocoa plantation to “grow money” in the name of Spain, beginning a Spanish cocoa monopoly that lasted two centuries. It made a profitable industry for Spain, which planted cocoa trees in its overseas colonies. In 1585, the first official shipments of cocoa seeds began arriving in Seville from Vera Cruz, Mexico. Later, the popularity of the chocolate drink spread throughout Europe.

The English, French, and Dutch began to plant cacao trees in their own lands. Until the 18th century, none but the rich and noble people could afford to drink chocolate. During the period known as the Industrial Revolution, new technologies helped to produce chocolate in less cost. After the Industrial Revolution, not only wealthy people, but also mediocre people, even poor people can enjoy the sweetness of “food of the gods”, chocolate. Farmers grow cacao trees in many countries in Africa, Central and South America. The trees grow in shady areas of rainforests near the Earth’s equator, but these trees can be difficult to grow. They require the exact amount of water, warmth, soil, and protection. After about five years, cacao trees start producing large fruits called “pods”, which grow near the trunk of the trees. The seeds inside the pods are harvested to make chocolate. Growing cacao is very hard work for farmers. They sell their harvest on futures market. This means that the economical condition outside of the control can affect the amount of money that they will earn.

Today, chocolate industry officials, activists, and scientists are working with farmers. They are trying to make sure that cacao can be grown in a way that is fair for farmers and safe for the environment. To become chocolate, cacao seeds go through a long production process in factory. Workers must sort, clean and cook the seeds. Then they break off the covering of the seeds so that only the inside fruit (nibs) remain. Workers crush the nibs into the a soft substance called chocolate liquor. This gets separated into cacao solids and a fat called cacao butter. Chocolate makers of different chocolate factories have their own special recipes in combining the chocolate liquor with exact amount of sugar, milk and cocoa fat. The finely crush this crumb mixture, so it becomes smooth. Then the smooth mixture goes through two more processes before it is shaped into a mold form. Pour the smooth mixture into molds or a large pan that then the chocolate can be cut into small bars. Let the chocolate cool and harden in a room temperature or in a fridge covered by foil. Then the chocolate can be packed and sold. That is the chocolate that a modern people consume

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