So where and when did the magic of chocolate begin? Thousands of years ago is the answer, in the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations of Central America.Cocoa trees grew wild in the jungle, and they used them to make a spicy, rather bitter drink for special occasions. Centuries later the Aztec Empire fell, and the Conquistador Hernan Cortés brought cocoa beans back across the ocean to Spain. Gradually this delicious brown powder spread across Europe – it was the fashionable choice of Kings and Queens, the nobility and the rich, just like caviar or champagne today. At the end of the 19th Century milk was added, and at last someone devised a way of making the powder into a solid form to eat as well as to drink. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that chocolate became affordable for everyone. So this luxury has been on an epic journey, but its popularity is enduring: prized once by Aztec warriors and today by millions of people around the world. Ever wished that it grew on trees? Well it does! Cocoa trees grew wild in the Amazon and tropical rain forests of Central and South America for thousands of years – way before it ever reached us in Europe.
Cocoa beans were prized by the Maya Indians as far back as 600 AD. They roasted the beans, and added chilli and other spices to make a drink called ‘xocoatl’. It wasn’t much like our drinking liquid that we know though.
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