Chocolate Origins

Where does chocolate come from? We know that it comes from beans grown by the Theobroma cacao tree. What we don’t know is where cacao was first domesticated. How many of us think of the Aztecs in Mexico eating mole or drinking a spicy hot chocolate drink? Well it seems that chocolate wasn’t first domesticated in Mexico as we thought. Mexico was just where the Europeans first saw chocolate being used and cultivated. This theory of chocolate domestication was recently proved to be wrong or at least questionable.

Currently even the people studying the origin of chocolate are in disagreement. One theory has it that cacao was introduced to Mexico and central America some 2-10,000 years ago from the wild cacao varieties present in the Upper Amazon (Northern South America) such as Ecuador and then domesticated about 3-4000 years ago.. Alternatively, there is evidence suggesting that the chocolate tree was domesticated in the upper Amazon region 5-6000 years ago and then spread by trade to Mexico and central America.

Does it really matter? If we know more about a plant’s origins we have better access to its ancestral gene bank. This gives us access to genetic diversity which we can use if disease occurs that threaten our current domesticated cacao trees. Oh nos, we don’t want chocolate going the way of the banana, which perennially crops up (oops sorry not sorry) as being a genetic deadend and not being around much longer.

Access to a variety of cacao genes, gives us access to different types of chocolate. Each type of chocolate can give us different flavors and colors.

This image is by my brother who wasn’t very impressed with this kitkat made of ruby cocoa. Perhaps maintaining the red color reduced the flavor. I have a few friends who don’t like chocolate and a few more who won’t eat it because of all the sugar added. Perhaps we could use some of the older varieties of cacao to get some new flavors and make more interesting chocolate that isn’t full of sugar. 

Do you have a chocolate based product you want more people to know about? Message me and I’ll feature a link to your product in this post.

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