The ancient Mayan and Aztec people of Central America enjoyed a drink called ‘chocolatl’. It was made from roasted and ground up cocoa beans mixed with water and spices. Cocoa beans were so valuable that they were sometimes used as currency. In Central America, 10 beans could buy you a rabbit, while100 beans could buy you a slave.
Spanish explorers were the first to bring ‘chocolatl’ back from Central America to Europe in the early 1500s. Over the next 150 years, ‘chocolate’ became one of the most fashionable and expensive drinks, reaching England in the 1650s. By then it was discovered that adding sugar instead of the hotter spices and serving it hot made chocolate taste even better. Later, milk was added to improve it further. Chocolate houses were opened to serve the drink, still only affordable for the wealthy.
( 1502 – Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the first European to taste cocoa in Nicaragua, on his fourth voyage to the New World, returned to Europe with the first cocoa beans. No one knew what to do with them and they were dismissed in favor of other trade goods.)
1519 – The voyage which led Hernan Cortes (1485-1547), Spanish conquistadores, to discover Mexico and the Aztec civilization began in 1517 when he set sail from Cuba with 11 ships and 600 men, all seeking fame and fortune in the ‘New World’. Landing on the Mexican coast near Veracruz, he decided to make his way to Tenochtitlan to see for himself the famed riches of Emperor Montezuma and the Aztec empire.
It was Montezuma (1466-1520), Emperor of Mexico, who introduced Hernam Cortes to his favourite drink ‘chocolatl’ served in a golden goblet. American historian William Hickling’sHistory of the Conquest of Mexico (1838) reports that Montezuma: “took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate, flavored with vanilla and spices, and so prepared as to be reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually dissolved in the mouth and was taken cold.”
The fact that Montezuma consumed his “chocolatl” in goblets before entering his harem led to the belief that it was an aphrodisiac. Cortes wrote a letter to Charles V of Spain calling chocolate “The divine drink which builds up resistance & fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food.” When Cortes returned to Spain in 1528 he loaded his galleons with cocoa beans and chocolate drink making equipment.
Chocolate grows on trees, appearing in its raw state as melon-like pods on the 40- to 60-foot tall trees known botanically as “Theobroma cacao,” which means “food of the gods.” This tropical tree has grown wild in Central America since prehistoric times. It also grows in South America, Africa, and parts of Indonesia. The cacao tree produces a fruit about the size of a small pineapple. Inside the fruit are the tree’s seeds, also known as cocoa beans.
1631 – In 1631, the first recipe for a chocolate drink was published in Spain by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, an Andalusian physician, in his book, Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate (A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate). This was the first work to deal exclusively with chocolate and cacao. Don Antonio is said to have lived for some time in the West Indies. Since he was a doctor, he pays a great deal of attention to the dietary aspects of chocolate and was concerned with the psychological as well as the physical effects of the drink. He says, “Chocolate is healthy. It makes the drinker ‘Fat, and Corpulent, faire and Aimiable’. It was an aphrodisiac. In women it caused fertility but eased delivery, etc., etc.” The ingredients in the recipe were:
“Take one hundred cocoa beans, two chillies, a handful of anise seed and two of vanilla (two pulverized Alexandria roses can be substituted), two drams of cinnamon, one dozen almonds and the same amount of hazelnuts, half a pound of white sugar and enough annatto to give some color. And there you have the king of chocolates.”
1643 – It didn’t take long for Spaniards to begin heating the mixture and sweetening it with sugar. Soon ‘chocolate’ became a fashionable drink enjoyed by the rich in Spain.
As the Spanish royalty intermarried with other European Royalty, cocoa was given as a dowry. In 1643, when the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa (1638-1683)was betrothed to Louis XIV (1638–1715) of France, she gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an elegantly ornate chest. A royal chocolate maker was appointed and chocolate drinking became the rage.
There is a lot of much more detailed information about the Cacao bean history that is truly fascinating but I really want to explore the medicinal and touch on the hidden true flavours of the cacao and chocolate.
Chocolate definitely makes the world go around for me. The food I most phantasise about is definitely chocolate, I certainly can not imagine a life without it.
As a chef chocolate poses so much more potential investigations.
I initially always perceive a cacao bean as a fruit and note the different fruity tones in real good chocolate that often get lost in most chocolate productions. By adding of to much fats and milks as well as vanilla, to much sugar and so on can be disguising the actual character of the character of the cacao apart from becoming also not as healthy due to huge amount of sugar etc. These heavier mixes of chocolate give me personally a feeling that separates the actual true flavour from my pallet with overpowering acidic sugar sweetness as a lingering taste that is somewhat unpleasant.
I like very much Damien Allsop’s concept of water ganaches or William Curley’s fruit ganaches and using very distinctive and carefully selected chocolate mixes that stay closer to the actual cacao character and tastes – in both these examples the chocolate can go deeper into your taste-buds therefor giving a cleaner and more elegant and refined experience.
That is just my feeling about chocolate.
I feel we have still so many opportunity’s to discover chocolate and it’s possibilities, this fiendish delight is indeed a magic ingredient as generally it is said that Chocolate and cocoa contain a high level of flavonoids, specifically epicatechin, which may have beneficial cardiovascular effects on health.
Prolonged intake of flavanol-rich cocoa has been linked to cardiovascular health benefits, though it should be noted that this refers to raw cocoa and to a lesser extent, dark chocolate, since flavonoids degrade during cooking and alkalizing processes.
Studies have found short term benefits in LDL cholesterol levels from dark chocolate consumption.The addition of whole milk to milk chocolate reduces the overall cocoa content per ounce while increasing saturated fat levels, possibly negating some of cocoa’s heart-healthy potential benefits. Although one study has concluded that milk impairs the absorption of polyphenolic flavonoids, e.g. (-)epicatechin, a followup failed to find the effect.
The researchers found that the Kuna Indians living on the islands had significantly lower rates of heart disease and cancer compared to those on the mainland who do not drink cocoa as on the islands. It is believed that the improved blood flow after consumption of flavanol-rich cocoa may help to achieve health benefits in hearts and other organs. In particular, the benefits may extend to the brain and have important implications for learning and memory.
Foods rich in cocoa appear to reduce blood pressure but drinking green and black tea may not, according to an analysis of previously published research in the April 9, 2007 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
A 15-year study of elderly men published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2006 found a 50 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality and a 47 percent reduction in all-cause mortality for the men regularly consuming the most cocoa, compared to those consuming the least cocoa from all sources.
These are some direct highlights
- Anadamide is called the bliss chemical. This is an endorphin that is created during exercise. It has been studied as a chocolate isolate in a lab. Anandamide has been found so far in only one plant, the cacao tree. The lipid found in anandamide helps release neurotransmitters that create a feeling of elation.
- Cacao is claimed to be the number one source of magnesium of any common food. Magnesium is a major mineral responsible for heart beat rhythm, strong bones and smooth muscle relaxation.
- Cacao is a poor source of caffeine. A sample of raw chocolate will yield anywhere from zero caffeine to 1,000 parts per million of caffeine – less than 1/20th of the caffeine present in coffee.
- Additional minerals found in the cacao bean include potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper, and chromium.
- Lastly, cacao contains tryptophan, an essential tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is transformed into important stress-protective neurotransmitters including serotonin and melatonin.
The topic of the keynotes by Shawn Stevenson focus on the health benefits of cocoa in its most raw form. The professional nutritionist offers audiences an interesting and entertaining presentation on the history of cocoa and its unknown perks and advantages.
Stevenson’s expertise is in biochemistry and kinesiology. He received his bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Missouri. Upon graduating, he founded his own company called the Advanced Integrative Health Alliance. There, he promotes ‘The Shawn Stevenson Model,’ which aims to improve the health and happiness of individuals by providing the most effective strategies.
The keynotes by Shawn Stevenson also reference his two books ‘The Key to Quantum Health’ and ‘The Fat Loss Code.’ He offers audiences valuable information on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and fascinating stories on the food surrounding us.
The Hidden Benefits of Chocolate/ Health Keynote Offers Surprising Perks of Cacao
The topic of this health keynote by nutritionist Shawn Stevenson is chocolate. His speech reveals the hidden and unknown health benefits of chocolate in its purest form—cacao
Chocolate as Medicine
According to the article From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate, by Louis E. Grivetti:
From the 16th through early 19th century, numerous European travel accounts and medical texts documented the presumed merits and medicinal value of chocolate. . . Presented here is a brief “taste” of these rich chocolate-related passages from selected historical monographs. On inspection, these samples reveal that chocolate products were used to treat a myriad of human disorders:
Francisco Hernández (1577) wrote that pure cacao paste prepared as a beverage treated fever and liver disease. He also mentioned that toasted, ground cacao beans mixed with resin were effective against dysentery and that chocolate beverages were commonly prescribed to thin patients in order for them to gain “flesh.”
Agustin Farfan (1592) recorded that chili peppers, rhubarb, and vanilla were used by the Mexica as purgatives and that chocolate beverages served hot doubled as powerful laxatives.
José de Acosta (1604) wrote that chili was sometimes added to chocolate beverages and that eating chocolate paste was good for stomach disorders.
Santiago de Valverde Turices (1624) concluded that chocolate drunk in great quantities was beneficial for treatment of chest ailments, but if drunk in small quantities was a satisfactory medicine for stomach disorders.
Colmenero de Ledesma (1631) reported that cacao preserved consumers’ health, made them corpulent, improved their complexions, and made their dispositions more agreeable. He wrote that drinking chocolate incited love-making, led to conception in women, and facilitated delivery. He also claimed that chocolate aided digestion and cured tuberculosis.
Henry Stubbe (1662) wrote that consumers should drink chocolate beverages once or twice each day to relieve tiredness caused by strenuous business activities. He reported that ingesting cacao oil was an effective treatment for the Fire of St. Anthony (i.e., ergot poisoning). Stubbe also described chocolate-based concoctions mixed with Jamaica pepper used to treat menstrual disorders, and other chocolate preparations blended with vanilla to strengthen the heart and to promote digestion.