Throughout the ages, chocolate has been considered a valuable commodity. But where did our love for chocolate originate and how did it become the go-to treat we all enjoy today?
Original Bean Counters
When the latest craze hit the playground your parents would always counter your desperate pleading for toys with, “money doesn’t grow on trees”. Turns out it did. For Aztecs and Mayans trading in cocoa beans was part of the daily routine and tradeable goods all had a cocoa bean value. A single bean was enough to secure a juicy ripe tomato, three beans could be exchanged for an egg or an avocado and if you were lucky enough to have 100 cocoa beans in your bean pouch you could walk away
from the market with a nice plump turkey.
Powdered Wigs and Chocolate
A respectable member of 16th century court would have to have the most elaborately embroidered gown, the highest, immaculately coiffured wig… and a large hot chocolate! As the allure of chocolate grasped Europe’s attention, chocolate drinks, derived from the original liquid chocolate of the colonies, were all the rage amongst the nobility. A touch of vanilla here, a dash of cinnamon there, chilli for the brave and honey for the sweet-toothed nobles was all it took for chocolate to become irreplaceable. Anybody who was anybody was drinking chocolate!
Chocolate Goes Large
Machines, mistakes and eureka moments ensured that, as technology progressed, chocolate only got better. Blending cocoa butter with powdered cocoa created a melt in the mouth bar. Seashell shaped conches ground chocolate silky smooth. Inevitably, chocolate factories emerged, powered by steam, electricity and allegedly little orange men with green hair. The allure of a luxurious foreign delicacy evolved into a global industry now worth $50bn dollars a year.
Holidays are now inextricable from our cravings for cocoa. Advent calendars and chubby chocolate Santas epitomise Christmas, eggs emerge at Easter and it wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without iconic heart-shaped boxes filled with luxury handmade chocolates. Our joy in giving and receiving gifts (or just indulging) shows we place a value on chocolate, worlds apart from trading vegetables. How could she admonish you for being late if you arrive with a hand-packed, ribbon tied assortment box of champagne truffles? That’s got to be worth more than a turkey.