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“Chocolate the best-known food that nobody knows anything about,”
Owner of Chocolate Tours of New York City.
Many modern historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older.
Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “Xocoatl”, which referred to a bitter drink brewed from Cacao beans. The Latin name for the Cacao tree, Theobroma Cacao, means “food of the gods”.
To the indigenous Aztec people, Cocoa was consumed as a drink and held a great cultural and medicinal significance. It was almost viewed as a panacea that could cure various ailments, including fever, diarrhea, fatigue, angina, and tooth decay.
Chocolate, as it’s enjoyed today, is quite different from when it first arrived in Europe from South America around the 16th century. The person thought to be responsible for beginning the integration of Cocoa into Europe was, Hernan Cortes a Spanish conquistador (soldier and explorer) following his return from the “New World”.
In 1518, Cortes and his men arrived in what is now Mexico and headed towards the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. During their time in Mexico, the Spaniards tasted a bitter drink known as “Chikolatt”. The drink contained roasted cocoa beans that were crushed, then boiled in water with spices and chili.
The first exposure to the drink was not a favorable experience for the Spaniards – deeming it too bitter and almost unpalatable. But having seen Montezuma II, king of the Aztecs, consume the drink around 50 times a day, Cortes was interested in the potential of Cocoa and sought to bring it back to Spain following his conquest.
Once in Europe cocoa beans were crushed and mixed with honey and sugar, becoming a popular drink among the elite. Eventually, in the 19th century, the first chocolate bar was made by a local vendor Joseph Fry and Sons, creating what we know as chocolate today.
Cadbury initiated cocoa cultivation as a viable cash crop in India through a demonstration farm at Chundale in Wyanad district of Kerala in 1965. Planting of cocoa in India on a commercial scale was taken up from the early 1970s onwards with Mondelez India Foods Private Limited (Formerly Cadbury India Ltd.) giving the free planting material and technical know-how to the farming community. Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI) started research on Cocoa in 1972 and Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) followed in 1979. Mondelez India Foods Private Limited (Formerly Cadbury India Ltd.) has been partnering with the research at KAU for the last 20 years.
As an intercrop, it is presently cultivated in parts of Kerela, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.