The Mesoamerican legend says that diety, Quetzalcoatl, gifted the cacao tree from the garden of paradise to the Mayans and Aztecs. Essentially, the plant theobroma cacao, in Latin, translates to food of the gods. In Mexico, the Oaxacan’s preparation of the xocatl, pronounced chocoatil, still upholds its Mayan tradition by toasting the beans, grounding them until it becomes a paste, and finally adding vanilla, almonds and cinnamon for flavor. They are made into small patties and wrapped for consumption.
The prevalence of chocolate in the Western World was centuries of trade and the development of an acquired taste. Hernando Cortes brought it to Spain after he was entertained by Montezuma in the 1500s. In the 1600s, having chocolate became fashionable to wealthy Europeans. With the invention of the steam engine in the 1700s, the transportation and distribution of this good spread to other markets. The early 1800s proved to be an innovative century of chocolate; a Dutch chemist discovered how to make powdered chocolate and “Dutch Cocoa” resulted, Joseph Fry made the chocolate more moldable and is credited to have created the first modern chocolate bar, and Cadbury and Nestle started to market the sweet treat.
Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native cuisine. Legend has it that the Aztec king Montezuma welcomed the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes with a banquet that included drinking chocolate, having tragically mistaken him for a reincarnated deity instead of a conquering invader. Chocolate didn’t suit the foreigners’ tastebuds at first –one described it in his writings as “a bitter drink for pigs” – but once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain. (Smithsonian)
Socially conscious brands like Taza Chocolate are tapping into these traditions. To make Mayan hot chocolate, specific tools and methods are used. The small chocolate disks can be added to milk or water to make hot chocolate in a small jug and mixed with a mollino that stirs and froths the beverage. This decorative tool is featured by the Kitchn. According to the Oaxacans, the cap of foam represents the spirit of the chocolate and the energy of the person who made it. Stay warm and enjoy the properties of this ancient bean.
Friday, February 24 / 12-4PM
Taza Chocolate – Free Tasting
Hosted by Eli’s Manhattan, NYC
1411 Third Avenue
Upper East Side