Where does chocolate come from? Switzerland? Read on!
The first proven chocoholics were in fact the ancient Maya of southeast Mexico who enjoyed chocolate’s pleasures and health benefits almost three thousand years ago! Drinking chocolate was so popular in prehispanic Mexico that the tradition was still going strong when the Spanish arrived in 1519. It is said that Montezuma, the Aztec Emperor, drank cups of chocolate foam every evening before visiting his harem.
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, the highly nutritious seeds of the forest tree Theobroma Cacao (“Food of the Gods”), native to Mexico. The Maya planted large cacao plantations in Tabasco and Chiapas, and formed trade routes to supply their outposts all over Central America. The supply of cacao was so important that the Aztecs controlled major plantations hundreds of miles from their capital.
Cacao (kah-KOW, a Mayan word) was offered as tribute to Gods and leaders, as well as having value in day-to-day life as the region’s financial currency. For the Aztecs, cacao was a gift from their most revered God, Quetzalcoatl, forming a bridge between heaven and earth. A lot of chocolate lovers can probably relate to this!
Today we are in the midst of a chocolate renaissance, with more and more chocolate lovers demanding “real chocolate”. Real chocolate has a high percentage of cacao with no unpleasant additives like vegetable fat and artificial flavors. Ah Cacao Real Chocolate is a brand of chocolate made in Mexico using the same fine flavored criollo cacao that the Maya enjoyed (“Ah Cacao” is Mayan for “King Chocolate”). Criollo (cree-OH-yo) is known as the “flavor” variety of cacao, even though today it accounts for less than 5% of the world’s cacao production. The Ah Cacao Criollo Bar is an all-natural dark chocolate bar containing over 70% cacao (compared to less than 15% for most supermarket brands) permitting a true appreciation of the wonderfully complex taste of fine cacao. Very sophisticated.
Real chocolate is good for you!
And if you find your body starts to crave the great taste of real chocolate, maybe it’s because it’s good for you! Like red wine, real chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants that fight aging and cancer. Real chocolate also appears to lower blood cholesterol levels and contains a host of other minerals and nutrients that stimulate both body and mind. In fact it has been suggested on the TV show “Oprah” that to stay healthy and happy, everyone should be eating an once or two of dark chocolate a day. Interesting that the Maya were saying that hundreds of years ago!
For further reading, we highly recommend: The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and Michael D. Coe
Harvesting in Mexico occurs mainly in the forest environments of Tabasco and Chiapas
Fermentation bins and drying racks for the cacao beans
Dried and slightly roasted cacao beans – finely ground cacao
Products made from cacao include Mole sause, chocolate beverages and solid chocolate. To experience delicious Real Chocolate visit Ah Cacao in the Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Ah Cacao Real Chocolate is available in:
- Ah Cacao Chocolate Café, Playa del Carmen & Cancún
- Xcaret eco theme park, Riviera Maya
- Xel-ha water theme park, Riviera Maya
- Plaza la Fiesta Stores, Playa del Carmen & Cancún
- Los Cinco Soles, Cancún airport
- Organicamente, Tulum & Guadalajara
- AllTourNative, Tulum
- And in many fine restaurants and hotel shops in the Riviera Maya
Special Thanks – Mil gracias to:
- Rohan Barnett of Ah Cacao – Real Chocolate for collaborating on this article.