This scene painted on an ancient Maya vessel reveals how the people drank chocolate as a beverage and often presented it to their gods as an offering.
© Justin Kerr (http://archive.fieldmuseum.org/chocolate/pop_ill1.html_
Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as atax, or as the Aztecs called it, a "tribute".
The tasty secret of the cacao (kah KOW) tree was discovered 2,000 years ago in the tropical rainforests of the Americas. The pods of this tree contain seeds that can be processed into chocolate. The story of how chocolate grew from a local Mesoamerican beverage into a global sweet encompasses many cultures and continents.
The first people known to have made chocolate were the ancient cultures of Mexico and Central America. These people, including the Maya and Aztec, mixed ground cacao seeds with various seasonings to make a spicy, frothy drink.
2000 BC, Amazon: Cocoa, from which chocolate is created, is said to have originated in the Amazon at least 4,000 years ago.
Sixth Century AD: Chocolate, derived from the seed of the cocoa tree, was used by the Maya Culture, as early as the Sixth Century AD. Maya called the cocoa tree cacahuaquchtl… "tree," and the word chocolate comes from the Maya word xocoatl which means bitter water.
300 AD, Maya Culture: To the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility... nothing could be more important! Stones from their palaces and temples revealed many carved pictures of cocoa pods.
600 AD, Maya Culture: Moving from Central America to the northern portions of South America, the Mayan territory stretched from the Yucatán Peninsula to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. In the Yucatán, the Mayas cultivated the earliest know cocoa plantations. The cocoa pod was often represented in religious rituals, and the texts their literature refer to cocoa as the god’s food
Chocolate has impacted the ways in which some humans worshiped, and expressed their values
1200, Aztec Culture: The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl who, descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree stolen from paradise. In both the Mayan and Aztec cultures cocoa was the basis for a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called xocoatl… believed to be a health elixir. Since sugar was unknown to the Aztecs, different spices were used to add flavor, even hot chili peppers and corn meal were used!
Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree, and also that it had nourishing, fortifying, and even aphrodisiac qualities. The Aztec emperor, Montezuma, drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day!
The cocoa beans were used for currency… records show that 400 cocoa beans equaled one Zontli, while 8000 beans equaled one Xiquipilli. When the Aztecs conquered tribes, they demanded their payment in cocoa! By subjugating the Chimimeken and the Mayas, the Aztecs strengthened their supremacy in Mexico. Records dating from 1200 show details of cocoa deliveries, imposed on all conquered tribes.