domingo, 26 de agosto de 2012

The History of Chocolate

The Theobroma Cacao tree, to use its scientific name, provides us with one of the world’s most delicious foods—chocolate! Theobroma is a Greek word meaning ‘food of the gods.’ The tree originally comes from the Amazon region of South America. Hand-sized pods that grow on the tree contain cocoa seeds—often called ‘cacao bean.’ These seeds, or beans, are used to make chocolate.

The earliest use and consumption of cacao beans dates back to around 1000 B.C. Later, the Mayan and Aztec civilizations consumed cacao as a drink. They often flavored it with ingredients, such as chili peppers, and other spices. It is believed that drinking cups of chocolate was important in Mayan rituals such as wedding ceremonies. In Peru, eating and drinking a mixture of chocolate and chili was said to be good for the stomach. The Aztecs thought it cured sicknesses such as diarrhea, and believed it was an aphrodisiac. Their ruler, Moctezuma, was said to have drunk fifty cups a day!

Christopher Columbus, along with Spanish explorers, made his fourth voyage across the Atlantic in the early 1500s, and arrived on the coast of Honduras. It was at this time that he first discovered the value of cacao beans, which were used as currency in many parts of Central America.

In the sixteenth century, chocolate was taken back to Spain by Hernando Cortez, another explorer. The Spanish people added ingredients such as sugar and vanilla to make it sweet. It later spread to France in the seventeenth century after the marriage of Louis XIII to the Spanish princess, Anna, who loved chocolate. The popularity of chocolate continued to spread further across Europe and the Americas. The only Asian country to adopt it at that time, though, was the Philippines, which the Spanish invaded in the sixteenth century.

As chocolate became more popular, the demand for people to work on cocoa plantations increased. Slaves were brought to the Americas from Africa to farm the cocoa. Eventually, the cacao tree was taken back to Africa and cultivation began there. Today, the African plantations provide almost seventy percent of the world’s cacao, compared with one and a half percent from Mexico.

(Adopted from Active English 5 Thomson Heinle)

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