Here's a bit of chocolate history. Chocolate was considered ‘food of the gods’. It is believed that cacao originated in the Amazon Orinoco Basin more than 4,000 years ago, but was used primarily for the sweet pulp that surrounds the beans inside of the pod. It was most likely spread through Central America from Ecuador by humans along coastal trade routes. By 1800 BCE, Theobroma cacao had spread into the Soconusco region of Guatemala and the Pacific coastal plain of Chiapas, Mexico. It was here that cacao is believed to have been first domesticated and used for its beans.
Chocolate’s importance in the Aztec empire is clearly documented and traceable through history. When the Aztecs took control of the Soconusco region, cacao was regularly brought back to Tenochtitlan as a tribute payment on the backs of traders. Each trader’s pack would traditionally contain 24,000 beans. It was noted by the 16th century writer Francisco Cervantes de Salazar that at one point, in one of the Emperor of Tenochtitlan’s many warehouses of cocoa beans, 9.6 million beans were being stored!
The Aztec way of making chocolate was very similar to that of the Mayans; both cultures made a frothy drink from the dark beans, with the only real difference being that the Aztec beverage was consumed cool rather than hot. The drink was created by first toasting the beans on a clay comal (griddle) over an open fire, then laboriously grinding the beans on a stone metate until a stream of liquid chocolate trickled off the metate’s edge and into an earthen bowl.
Water was then added to create a coarse texture, as well as flavorings such as honey, dried flowers, vanilla, chili, allspice or finely ground corn. In order to achieve the froth on top of the beverage, it was poured from one bowl to another bowl repeatedly until thick foam formed on the top.
When I was in Europe, I discovered how to drink chocolate. They even offered Tabasco on the table to spike it. Let me tell you that it was a wonderful experience. You also got a cinnamon stick to stir it.