The Prolonged Love Affair Humans Have With Chocolate

Key Takeaways:

  • Archaeological findings point towards human chocolate consumption dating back over 3,000 years, which predates even the Mayan civilization, with chocolate initially being brewed from the pulp of the cacao fruit.
  • The initial cocoa concoctions fermented to create mildly alcoholic beverages were consumed by the Mesoamerican communities during significant ceremonies, reflecting its cultural importance.
  • Recent research has sparked a debate about the origins of cacao, with some experts suggesting chocolate’s existence might be almost 4,000 years old. This is based on the findings of the chemical theobromine, found exclusively in cacao plants, in ancient vessels.
  • The consumption of chocolate has significantly evolved over centuries, originally consumed as a fruity pulp brew, to a complex mixture combined with various additions such as chillies, honey and spices, enhancing its flavor.
  • The modern chocolate industry, as proposed by Dr. Henderson, might have been an unintended happenstance that resulted from revolutionary chocolate pulp brewing techniques used by ancient civilizations.

Delving into the world’s past reveals our enduring love affair with chocolate. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of human chocolate consumption dating back more than 3,000 years. This incredible revelation was made possible by analyzing ancient pottery from Mesoamerican people, predating even the Mayan civilization.

The Beginning of Chocolate Consumption

The containers in question, dating back to 1150 B.C., are believed to have housed a captivating, fermented chocolate substance, moulded by the inhabitants of what is currently known as Puerto Escondido, Honduras. This elixir was brewed from the pulp of cacao fruit before civilization’s attention eventually shifted towards the cacao bean. Patrick McGovern, renowned archaeological specialist, provides some insight into this narrative.

The Role of Cacao in Civilization

Interestingly, this primitive cacao concoction seems to have been fermented to produce a mildly alcoholic beverage, making up about 5 percent of its total composition. Far from being a casual tipple, these cacao brews were regularly consumed during significant community ceremonies such as weddings and births.

Contemporary Research Studies on Cacao

Dr. John S. Henderson, a professor of anthropology at Cornell University in New York, championed a research team that sought to uncover the earliest instances of cacao consumption in history. Their findings suggested the presence of the chemical theobromine in these ancient vessels, a chemical found exclusively in cacao plants.

However, these findings sparked a debate among academics. Renowned anthropologist and author, Dr. Michael D. Coe, suggested that chocolate’s existence D. Coe is far older than Henderson’s team suggests, with evidence pointing to it being almost 4,000 years old.

The Evolution of Chocolate

How chocolate was consumed over millennia is another hotly debated topic among historians. According to McGovern, this delicious brew could have transformed from a simple fruity pulp brew to an elaborate mixture combined with additions like chillies, honey, and various spices to enhance the flavor. The love for cacao didn’t die with the first Mesoamericans. It was carried on through generations, eventually becoming part of the culinary traditions of the Mayan and Aztec civilizations.

Early Brewing and Unintended Consequences

Reflecting on these historical finds, Dr. Henderson suggests a view that might catch many by surprise. He proposes that what we have come to know as the modern chocolate industry is nothing but an unintended and happy accident. An accident that could have sprung from the revolutionary chocolate pulp brewing techniques that led to the birth of notable beverages in later times.

Human Fascination with Fermentation

Over time, it appears that humans have always been on a relentless quest to unearth anything that could ferment. This wasn’t limited to cacao pulp either. The oldest alcoholic beverage known to man, dating from 7000 B.C., a cocktail of rice, honey and wild grape, was discovered in China proving this point.

More Information

For a deeper dive into the history of chocolate wonder, you might want to visitThe Field Museum.

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