Chocolate’s ancient origins
Chocolate is derived from the theobroma (‘food of the gods’) cacao tree and was consumed by the Mayans as a drink. Chocolate became a sacred elixir to both the Mayans and Aztecs; it was used during state executions and religious ceremonies. Archaeologists have discovered residues of chocolate in ancient jars that were found in Honduras and dated to 1100 BCE. Cocoa trees grew in abundance throughout the Mayan territories, and by 600 CE their pods (pictured) were processed in order to produce a frothy, bitter drink. The Mayans blended their chocolate with spices like chilli pepper and vanilla; once consumed they were believed to ward off tiredness. Evidence suggests that cocoa beans were also ground to a powder. During this process, other ingredients could be added – in this instance, the resulting powder was mixed with cold water to create porridge.