Chocolate!

What is the history of Chocolate?

Who Am I?

My name is Jenifer Cervantes and I am a Senior at F.L Schlagle High School. I have been attending Schlagle all four years.

Essential Question: What is The History of Chocolate?

I came to this question because it is something I've always wanted to know more about.

From my research project i hope others

I hope people learn amazing facts about chocolate, like who was the person that invented it or to think about it, and also how it was first made, like what ingredients were used and how it has improved these past years.
Hershey's chocolate making process

Chocolate History: Who Invented Chocolate?

Chocolate history starts out in Latin America, where cacao trees grow wild. The first people to use chocolate were probably the Olmec of what is today southeast Mexico. They lived in the area around 1000 BC, and their word, “kakawa,” gave us our word “cacao.” Unfortunately, that’s all we know. We don’t know how (or even if) the Olmec actually used chocolate.


We do know, however, that the Maya, who inhabited the same general area a thousand years later (from about 250-900 AD), did use chocolate. A lot. And not just internally. It is with the Maya that chocolate history really begins.

The cacao beans were used as currency. 10 beans would buy you a rabbit or a prostitute. 100 beans would buy you a slave. Some clever person even came up with a way to counterfeit beans – by carving them out of clay. The beans were still used as currency in parts of Latin America until the 19th century!

The Maya also used chocolate in religious rituals; it sometimes took the place of blood. Chocolate was used in marriage ceremonies, where it was exchanged by the bride and groom, (I think I will have to revive this tradition), and in baptisms. They even had a cacao god.

But the Maya prepared chocolate strictly for drinking. Chocolate history doesn’t include solid chocolate until the 1850s. Except for that, the way the Maya prepared chocolate wasn’t too much different from the way it’s prepared today. First, the beans were harvested, fermented, and dried. The beans were then roasted and the shells removed, and the rest was ground into a paste. The paste was mixed with hot water and spices, such as chili, vanilla, annatto, allspice, honey, and flowers. Then the mixture was frothed by pouring it back and forth between two containers. The Maya thought the froth was one of the best parts. Chocolate was also mixed with corn and water to make a sort of gruel. It was probably similar to the chocolate and corn drink pinole, still enjoyed in Latin America today.


If dollar bills were edible, would you eat them? Probably not, unless you had some to spare. The same was true of the Maya – usually only the rich drank much chocolate, although working folks probably enjoyed chocolate every now and then too. The rich enjoyed drinking their chocolate from elaborately painted chocolate vessels. Emperors were buried with jars of chocolate at their side. Clearly, they wanted to make chocolate history themselves.

So it’s no surprise that when the Aztecs conquered the Maya, they kept the chocolate tradition alive. From about 1200-1500, the Aztecs dominated the region and continued using cacao as currency. Because cacao could not grow in the capital city, Tenochitlan (where Mexico City is today), it had to be imported through trading and, what else? Taxes!

The Aztec drank their chocolate much like the Maya, although they sometimes liked it cold. One chocolate history legend has it that the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl brought cacao to earth and was cast out of paradise for giving it to man. Only the gods were fit to drink chocolate!

In 1502, Columbus and his son, Ferdinand, were in the area, doing the usual conquering and such, when they came across a dugout canoe laden with supplies. They promptly captured it and ordered the natives to carry the loot on board their ship. In the process, somebody spilled some cacao, and the natives ran for the beans “as if an eye had fallen from their heads,” according to Ferdinand. Columbus could have been known as the first white guy to “discover” chocolate, but he blew his chance to make chocolate history by forgetting all about the incident.

In 1519, Cortez and his cronies arrived in the Aztec capital, where cacao trading was in full force, and Montezuma, the Aztec ruler, was rumored to have a billion beans in storage. They tried chocolate, hated it, and one writer eloquently called it “more a drink for pigs than a drink for humanity.” Without sugar, cacao was fairly bitter.

After Cortez and pals conquered the Aztecs, they kept right on using cacao as currency. By this time a rabbit cost 30 cacao beans. Must have been inflation. But chocolate history would soon change forever, because Cortez also kept right on conquering other people. Conveniently, the Spanish had taken over lots of Caribbean islands. And on those islands was sugar. Next thing you know, somebody put sugar in chocolate and everybody was clamoring for the stuff.

The History of Chocolate

The first recorded evidence of chocolate as a food product goes back to Pre-Columbian Mexico. The Mayans and Aztecs were known to make a drink called "Xocoatll from the beans of the cocoa tree. In 1528, the conquering Spaniards returned to Spain with chocolate still consumed as a beverage. A similar chocolate drink was brought to a royal wedding in France in 1615, and England welcomed chocolate in 1662. To this point "chocolate" as we spell it today, had been spelled variously as "chocalatall, "jocolatte", "jacolatte", and "chockelet.11

In 1847, Fry & Sons in England introduced the first "eating chocolate," but did not attract much attention due to its bitter taste. In 1874, Daniel Peter, a famed Swiss chocolateer, experimented with various mixtures in an effort to balance chocolates rough flavor, and eventually stumbled upon that abundant product -- milk. This changed everything and chocolate's acceptance after that was quick and enthusiastic.

The Story of Chocolate

GROWING COCOA BEANS

Cocoa beans are usually grown on small plantations in suitable land areas 20 degrees north or south of the Equator. One mature cocoa tree can be expected to yield about five pounds of chocolate per year. These are planted in the shade of larger trees such as bananas or mangos, about 1000 trees per hectare (2,471 acres).

Cocoa trees take five to eight years to mature. After harvesting from the trees, the pods (which contain the cocoa beans) are split open, beans removed, and the beans are put on trays covered with burlap for about a week until they brown. Then they are sun dried until the moisture content is below 7%. This normally takes another three days.

After cleaning, the beans are weighed, selected and blended before roasting at 250 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Then shells are removed leaving the "nib." Nibs are crushed to create a chocolate "mass." This is the base raw material from which all chocolate products are made.
How It's Made - Chocolate Coins
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Why Chocolate Is Good For Us

In recent years, large-scale epidemiological studies have found that people whose diets include dark chocolate have a lower risk of heart disease than those whose diets do not. Other research has shown that chocolate includes flavonols, natural substances that can reduce the risk of disease. But it hasn’t been clear how these flavonols could be affecting the human body, especially the heart. New findings from Virginia Tech and Louisiana State University, however, suggest an odd explanation for chocolate’s goodness: It improves health largely by being indigestible. Researchers at Louisiana State reached this conclusion after simulating the human digestive system in glass vessels. One represented the stomach and the small intestine, with their digestive enzymes, and a second reproduced a large-intestine-like environment, with gut microbes from human volunteers. The scientists then added cocoa powder to the stomach vessel.

The “stomach” and “small intestine” broke down and absorbed some of the cocoa. But while many of the flavonols previously identified in chocolate were digested in this way, there was still plenty of undigested cocoa matter. Gut bacteria in the simulated colon then broke that down further into metabolites, small enough to be absorbed into the bloodstream and known to reduce cardiac inflammation. Finally, the last undigested cocoa matter, now mostly fiber, began to ferment, releasing substances that improve cholesterol levels. And there was another health-giving twist to this entire process: The gut microbes that digested the cocoa were desirable probiotics like lactobacillus. Their numbers appeared to increase after the introduction of the cocoa, while less-salutary microbes like staphylococcus declined in number.

These findings are broadly consistent with those from Virginia Tech, Published in March in The Journal of Agricultural food and Food Chemistry. Researchers there began by feeding healthy lab mice a high-fat diet. Some of the mice were also given unsweetened cocoa extract; others were fed various types of flavonols extracted from the cocoa. After 12 weeks, most of the mice had grown fat and unwell, characterized by insulin resistance, high blood sugar and incipient diabetes. A few, however, had not gained weight. These animals had ingested one of the flavonol groups whose chemical structure seems to be too large to be absorbed by the small intestine.

What the results suggest, says Andrew Neilson, an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and the senior author of the mouse study, is that “there is something going on with cocoa in the colon,” but what that means for chocolate lovers is not clear. Future experiments, he hopes, will tease out why one flavonol group impeded weight gain and the others did not. Do not hold your breath for a cocoa-based diet pill anytime soon, though. Cocoa’s biochemical impacts are “extremely complex,” he says.

Sadly, Dr. Neilson also points out that cocoa is not a chocolate bar, something whose added ingredients and processing reduce the number and type of flavonols, increase calories (cocoa itself has very few) and possibly change the response of gut bacteria to the cocoa. “The evidence does not show that you can eat a chocolate bar every day and expect to improve your health,” he says. A few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder sprinkled onto oatmeal or a handful of cocoa nibs — bits of the cacao bean, available at natural-food stores — would be better, he says less than sweetly.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF EATING CHOCOLATE.

Dark Chocolate

  • very nutrious
  • powerful source of antioxidents
  • inprove blood flow and lower blood pressure
  • can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease
  • protects the skin against the sun
  • can improve brain function

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