A brief history of chocolate
Exactly when humans first reaped the benefits of the cacao plant is still unclear today. Anthropologists from the University of British Columbia have found evidence that Theobroma cacao plants were grown for food in what is now Ecuador over 5,000 years ago – nearly 1,500 years earlier than previously thought. Remnants of cacao plant DNA found on artefacts indicate that members of the Mayo-chinchipe culture processed the beans for drinking, medicine or as a stimulant.
It's well known that the Mayans enjoyed the chocolaty character of cacao beans, fermenting, roasting and stewing them to produce an ancient drinking chocolate called ‘chocolatl’. The Aztecs also recognised the value of cocoa beans, using them as money. Regardless of its exact origin, Western explorers soon discovered cocoa’s sweet potential, and by the 19th century these magic beans were transformed into solid chocolates to be sold to eager consumers.
This Aztec sculpture depicting a man carrying a cacao pod dates back to 1440–1521