Bite into a luscious piece of fine chocolate and it's hard to believe that expert chocolate crafters haven't been working centuries to perfect the art. The truth of the matter is that sweetened, creamy chocolate has only been around for a blip in time compared to an earlier, perhaps less savory form of chocolate.
The first chocolate creations were enjoyed by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs. These natives of Central and South America didn't eat their chocolate in fine bars or in crafted truffles. Instead, they drank their chocolate and they did so in a way that might make many a modern-day chocoholic cringe. No, we're not talking creamy cocoa with marshmallows floating on top.
So, how did they enjoy chocolate? Spicy!
Archaeologists and historians of the Mayans and Aztecs say the first forms of chocolate were quite bitter to the taste and generally had a very hot and spicy flair. These natives typically blended their chocolate with ingredients such as cornmeal and chili peppers. The resulting concoction was drunk.
The creation process also differed a bit when it was overseen by the original chocolate lovers. Many archaeologists believe that the Mayans and Aztecs did gather, ferment and dry the seeds. They then roasted the beans over an open fire and then removed the shells. The seeds were ground into a paste and blended with other ingredients to make a frothy consumable. Although sugar is not believed to have ever gone into the mix, it is possible nectar or honey graced the drink on occasion.
While many serious chocolate lovers today might equate consumption of their favorite food to a religious experience, for the Mayans and Aztecs it actually was. They used the chocolate drink in both religious and social ceremonies. Although it is believed the entire population took part in the drinking of chocolate on various occasions, the upper classes in these ancient societies made it a very big deal. Archaeologists have uncovered rather intricate containers that depict images of everything from animals and kings to ancient gods partaking in the enjoyment of chocolate. The Mayans even took the time to write about cacao with their ancient glyphic writing.
The Mayans are believed to have used cacao rather heavily in important religious ceremonies. Archaeologists say chocolate was used in weddings and also in sacrifices. It is believed they poured blood over cacao beans to serve up as an offering to their gods.
Although the first chocolate creations didn't taste like chocolate modern people are used to, this food served an important role in culture. As time passed, the mystical properties of chocolate have largely been lost, but many lovers still say a fine piece of chocolate is as close to heaven on earth that is possible.