Mayan Chocolate: More Than Candy

According to the Maya chocolate was given to the people after the Sovereign Plumed Serpent God created them from maize. Ek Chuah the God of Cocoa is honored in a festival every April with the sacrifice of a cocoa colored dog. The Spaniards noted that priests would pierce their earlobes and let the blood drip on the cocoa as a sacrifice. Also sacrificial victims were served cocoa to comfort them in the Mexica region before they were sacrificed in an annual festival.

Archeologists tell us that the Olmec, which is the parent of the Maya, were the first to use cocoa around 19000 BC to 400 BC. The Mayan word for chocolate was xocoatl. They also made a Maya Chocolate drink called chocolatl made of roasted cocoa beans, water and spice. Maya also used cocoa beans as currency. Because of the cocoa beans value they were given as gifts for special events and religious ceremonies. Mayan Merchants would trade cocoa beans for commodities such as jade, cloth and ceremonial feathers. Maya farmers would transport their cocoa beans for trade by strapping large baskets to their backs and canoeing to various markets. 100 cocoa beans could buy a slave.

Until contact with the Europeans in 1519 cocoa was reserved for adult males including priests, high government officials, military officers, distinguished warriors and sacrificial beings. Women and children were often excluded because cocoa was found intoxicating and valuable. There were archeological sites where cocoa offerings were found made to the dead.

The Ancient Maya called the cocoa tree ?cacahuatquchtl? stating that was the only tree worth naming. They felt the tree was from the gods and that the cocoa pods were the god's gifts to humans. Mayan chocolate is mentioned in the hieroglyphics and were depicted with images on their and religious implements and architectural structures.

In 4 surviving texts found from the post-classical Mayan period Mayan chocolate was referred to as food to the gods. Mayan chocolate was instrumental in many of the religious and ceremonial practices. The Mayans were the originators of brewing a bitter Mayan chocolate drink with the Cacao beans. Mayan texts describe the drink made from Mayan chocolate as a luxury only afforded to the nobility and wealthy to enjoy. The ancient texts also described how the Mayan chocolate was prepared. It varied in preparation from a refined drink to porridge mixed with corn meal. Pictures on various artifacts show cocoa being poured from one vessel to another to produce froth. Spices such as chili were also added to cocoa mixtures.

Traditionally the Mayan did not use sugar and milk in their chocolate drinks. The Europeans are the ones that added that to chocolate drinking. However I did find a recipe or two entitled Mayan Hot Chocolate that I would like to share: Of course it is not traditionally Mayan but they look interesting: 2 cups boiling water 1 chile pepper cut in half, seeds removed (with gloves) 5 cups light cream or whole or nonfat milk 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise 1 to 2 cinnamon sticks 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets Mexican chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces 2 tablespoons sugar or honey, or to taste l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain water and set aside.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.

Hot Chocolate Mayan Style 2 ounces (squares) bitter unsweetened bakers' chocolate 1-cup hot water 3 tablespoons honey Dash salt 3 cups hot milk 4 sticks cinnamon bark

Chop the chocolate and heat it in the water until melted. Add honey, salt, and beat the hot chocolate water with a balloon wire whip as you add th warmed milk. To make it more frothy and give more food value, you can beat up an egg or two, add hot chocolate to it, then pour it into the chocolate cooking pot and continue to whip, (but this isn't authentic). Serve the hot chocolate in mugs with cinnamon-bark stick stirrers in each.( Purists will tell you cinnamon bark was not indigenous to Maya culture.)

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About The Author, Regina Schwartz