Xococalit, or bitter water – this is what the Aztecs, commonly considered to be chocolate discoverers, called the drink made from beans crushed into cocoa pulp. The word bitter may be a bit surprising in this case, because chocolate is usually associated with a sweet cube that melts on the palate. So what’s the story behind this dessert?
4000 years of delicacy made from cocoa beans
For the Aztecs, the cocoa drink was a source of energy and strength. No sugar was added to it because it was unknown 4,000 years ago. At that time, the Olmecs, or the oldest civilization in the world, inhabiting today’s Mexico, consumed a cocoa seed drink during important celebrations or as a form of strengthening medicine. The first drink of this type in no way resembled today’s milk cocoa or sweet drinking chocolate, because it was very bitter and prepared from fresh beans. Probably accident or negligence caused that dried grains were used. This allowed us to get a taste of chocolate similar to the one we know today.
16th century in Europe – the difficult beginnings of chocolate
At first, Europeans were not impressed by the taste of cocoa, and they had no idea how to use it in gastronomy. The plant reached the Old Continent thanks to the discoveries of Columbus and was treated rather as a culinary curiosity of wild peoples from Latin America. Only very grated beans with the addition of fat and honey (to soften the natural bitterness) brought out the sweet, aromatic taste that we know to this day. Its name was borrowed from the Aztecs, only slightly modifying the pronunciation from xococalit to chocolate (“x” Mexicans pronounce how soft “ch”). The chocolate drink was popularized in 16th and 17th century Europe, mainly at royal courts. Over time, the production of chocolate in tablets began, using finely ground, dry cocoa beans, cocoa butter and honey or sugar with the addition of vanilla.
The improved Aztec delicacy conquered the whole world, and the growing demand for this type of product meant that in the nineteenth century they began to be produced in mass production. Of course, this also involved the search for cheaper intermediates and enhancers. The first chocolate factories were established in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and England. In this case, the precursors were probably the Dutch Van Houten brothers (the first mentions of this topic date back to 1630), and Dutch cocoa signed with a characteristic windmill is still considered to be the best. The Belgians became a world leader in the production of pralines, and the Swiss (with the famous Lindt) became famous for the production of characteristic chocolate bars and stuffed chocolate balls. Zurich (headquarters of companies such as Lindt, Nestle and Toblerone) and Brussels, where the Chocolate Museum is located, aspires to be the European capital of chocolate. Karol Wedel opened the first chocolate manufacture in Poland in 1851. In the early 1920s, his son Emil took over.
In search of lost taste
In the era of mass chocolate production, natural chocolate offered by small manufactories is becoming a real treat for real gourmets. These types of products are made by hand, and the ingredients come from organic, organic crops carried out in a fair trade spirit. Artificial fixatives, dyes or curable fats are obviously not used. Interestingly, their offer does not lack dairy-free, gluten-free or refined sugar-free chocolates. In addition, chocolate is often combined with interesting additions, such as dried fruit or nuts.
Is it worth eating chocolate? Probably yes, because it contains magnesium, potassium or phosphorus, which condition the proper functioning of the human body. In addition, the bar of favorite chocolate, fruit and nuts in chocolate or chocolate creams ideal for bread or pancakes, intensify the production in the brain of so-called endorphins, or happiness hormones.
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