THE MAYAN CONNECTION
We at AMBRIONA are greatly inspired by the Mayans of South America, who were the first to discover the delicious cocoa in 900 AD. The word chocolate finds its origins in the Mayan word “XOCOLAT” which translates to bitter water. The Mayans initially used beans of the cocoa to make a frothy & bitter drink called Xocolat. To make xocolat, cocoa beans were crushed & mixed with water, vanilla, honey, chilli peppers and other spices. “XOCOLATL” soon gained immense popularity & was consumed on a regular basis owing to its medicinal properties. It was also considered to be a source of energy & vitality.
Cocoa beans were of a paramount significance in the Mayan civilization. Xocolat was held in high esteem & was referred to as the ‘FOOD OF THE GODS’. The Mayans revered “GODDESS IXCACAO” also known as “THE GODDESS OF CHOCOLATE”. Mayans could enjoy cocoa, regardless of their social status. Cocoa was often consumed on auspicious occasions such as marriage celebrations & religious ceremonies.
THE AZTEC’S RISE TO POWER
When the Aztecs conquered the Mayans they forced them to pay taxes called “TRIBUTES”. Tributes were paid in the most precious Mayan resource “cocoa”. So the Aztecs, who couldn’t grow their own cocoa, would always have a continuous supply. Cocoa beans were considered very valuable. The Aztecs used them as money, and were very protective of their beans. They paid for food, clothes, taxes, gifts, and offerings to their gods using cocoa beans. Unlike the Mayans, drinking cocoa was a luxury that few Aztecs could afford. Aztecs believed that wisdom and power came from eating the fruit of the cocoa tree. The drink was so precious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after just one use.
THE SPANISH CONQUEST
Hernan Cortes a Spanish conquistador and explorer arrived in the Aztec homeland in 1519, the same year Quetzacoatl the Aztec god of wisdom had promised to return. Cortes happened to land at the exact spot from which the Aztec god departed. In his feather coated armour and gold jewellery, he reminded Aztecs of their returning God. The Aztec emperor Montezuma offered Cortes not only a cup of cocoa but the entire cocoa plantation! Which made Cortes’ conquest of the Aztec empire all the more easier
ARRIVAL IN SPAIN
In 1528 Cortes returned to Spain not only with the beans but the recipe and all the necessary equipment to make the chocolate beverage. For several decades, cocoa was mostly a Spanish secret. The Spanish experimented with the recipe and added sweeting agents like sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and discovered the chocolate drink could be cherished hot. Chocolate was a symbol of luxury consumed only by the wealthy and powerful due to its rarity.
ARRIVAL IN EUROPE
Cocoa made its first appearance in France at the wedding of King Louis Thirteenth to the Spanish princess Anne D’Autriche. Anne not only brought cocoa along with her in her wedding basket, she also brought servants skilled in the art of making the foaming beverage. Soon the fascination for chocolate spread across Europe.
FROM DRINK TO BAR
Chocolate remained an aristocratic elixir until the Dutch invented the cocoa press to squeeze the cocoa butter out of the bean, leaving behind a dry cake that could be pulverized into a fine powder that mixed with other ingredients such as sugar & could be poured into moulds and solidified into edible chocolate. This technological advancement in England during the industrial revolution lead to the mass production of chocolates and made it easily accessible to all.