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Mexico’s Mesoamerican Treasure: Chocolate

The origins of chocolate are argued to be older than corn itself. Within Mexican cuisine, chocolate is a historical culinary ingredient. Chocolate comes from the fruit of the cacao tree, native to both Central and South America, specifically the Amazon Bazin. The tree’s fruit, pods, can take approximately 5 month to grow on the tree’s trunk. When the beans are extracted from the pod, there is an ancient and crucial four-step process it undergoes for consumption: fermentation, drying, toasting and winnowing.

Mesoamerica’s Olmec civilization was the first to domesticate cacao and produce chocolate. The first known method of consuming chocolate was the ancient drink of Xocolatl. Made entirely of cacao, water and honey, the beverage was consumed by the elite.

Chocolate was seen both as a currency and a godly beverage that gave warriors strength for battle.

The chocolate that we know of today with sugar came during the Spanish Conquest. Spain became fond of xocolatl but found it bitter, resulting in the current edition of the sugary drink.

With the arrival of solid chocolate, it brought about Mexico’s hybrid cuisine between Mesoamerica and Spain. Mole is an example of a hybrid dish due to the mixture of Mesoamerican ingredients and Spanish spices. The regions of Mexico that utilize this ingredient in Mole are Puebla and Oaxaca.

Today, chocolate continues to be a historical  ingredient that is still cooked and consumed with dishes still following the ancient traditions, as well as the development of new ingredients for the next generation.