About the love of sweet things and the fine art of relish:

“Swapping belly for a second stomach!”

Chamber singer Leo Slezak was known to be addicted to sweet things. His son Walter told the following story: when he had once again enjoyed an excessive amount of relish, he said a quick prayer: “Dear God, I want to trade my belly for another stomach for sweets, please!” With such anecdotes as well as interesting facts, we want to keep you entertained here and hope that you will find chocolate a topic just as exciting as we do.

How Chocolate got its Name …

The word “chocolate” entered the English language from Spanish. How the word came into Spanish is less certain, and there are competing explanations. Perhaps the most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word chocolātl, which many sources derived from xocolātl, from xococ 'sour' or 'bitter', and ātl 'water' or 'drink'.

However, as William Bright noted the word “chocolatl” does not occur in central Mexican colonial sources, making this an unlikely derivation. Santamaria gives a derivation from the Yucatec Maya word “chokol” meaning 'hot', and the Nahuatl “atl” meaning 'water'.

Pointing to various sources dating from the time of the Spanish conquest, they identify cacahuatl (“cacao water”) as the original Nahuatl word for the cold beverage consumed by the Aztecs. Noting that using a word with caca in it to describe a thick brown beverage would not have gone over well with most speakers of Spanish because “caca” means 'faeces' in Spanish, the Coes suggest that the Spanish colonisers combined the Nahuatl atl with the Yucatec Maya chocol, for, unlike the Aztec, the Maya tended to drink chocolate heated. The Spanish preferred the warm Mayan preparation of the beverage to the cold Aztec one, and so the colonisers substituted chocol in place of the culturally unacceptable caca.

More recently, Dakin and Wichmann derive it from another Nahuatl term, “chicolatl” from eastern Nahuatl, meaning “beaten drink”. They derive this term from the word for the frothing stick, “chicoli”. However, the Coes write that xicalli referred to the gourd out of which the beverage was consumed and that the use of a frothing stick (known as a molinollo) was a product of creolisation between the Spanish and Aztec; the original frothing method used by the indigenous people was simply pouring the drink from a height into another vessel.

Historical Facts on Chocolate

The earliest record of using chocolate dates back before the Olmec. In November 2007, archaeologists reported finding evidence of the oldest known cultivation and use of cacao at a site in Puerto Escondido, Honduras, dating from about 1100 to 1400 BC. The residues found and the kind of vessel they were found in indicate the initial use of cacao was not simply as a beverage, but the white pulp around the cacao beans was likely used as a source of fermentable sugars for an alcoholic drink. The Maya civilization grew cacao trees in their backyards, and used the cacao seeds it produced to make a frothy, bitter drink. Documents in Maya hieroglyphs stated chocolate was used for ceremonial purposes, in addition to everyday life. The chocolate residue found in an early ancient Maya pot in Río Azul, Guatemala, suggests the Maya were drinking chocolate around 400 AD.

The sweet chocolate residue found in jars from the site of Puerto Escondido in Honduras from around 1100 BC is the earliest found evidence of the use of cacao to date. An early Classic (460–480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink. The Maya are generally given credit for creating the first modern chocolate beverage over 2,000 years ago, despite the fact that the beverage would undergo many more changes in Europe.

By the 15th century, the Aztecs gained control of a large part of Mesoamerica, and adopted cacao into their culture. They associated chocolate with Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility, and often used chocolate beverages as sacred offerings. The Aztec adaptation of the drink was a bitter, frothy, spicy drink called xocolatl, made much the same way as the Mayan chocolate drinks. It was often seasoned with vanilla, chile pepper, and achiote, and was believed to fight fatigue, which is probably attributable to the theobromine content, a mood enhancer. Because cacao would not grow in the dry central Mexican highlands and had to be imported, chocolate was an important luxury good throughout the Aztec empire, and cocoa beans were often used as currency. For example, the Aztecs used a system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans and one fresh avocado was worth three beans. South American and European cultures have used cocoa to treat diarrhea for hundreds of years. All of the areas ruled by the Aztecs were ordered to pay a tax, leading those that grew the beans to offer cacao seeds as tribute.

How Chocolate is Made

Chocolate is a raw or processed food produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Cacao has been cultivated for at least three millennia in Mexico, Central America and Northern South America. Its earliest documented use is around 1100 BC. The majority of the Mesoamerican people made chocolate beverages, including the Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocolātl, a Nahuatl word meaning “bitter water”. The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste, and must be fermented to develop the flavor.

After fermentation, the beans are dried, then cleaned, and then roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. Because this cocoa mass usually is liquefied then molded with or without other ingredients, it is called chocolate liquor. The liquor also may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Unsweetened baking chocolate (bitter chocolate) contains primarily cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions. Much of the chocolate consumed today is in the form of sweet chocolate, combining cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat, and sugar. Milk chocolate is sweet chocolate that additionally contains milk powder or condensed milk. White chocolate contains cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids.

Cocoa solids contain alkaloids such as theobromine and phenethylamine, which have physiological effects on the body. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Some research found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure. The presence of theobromine renders chocolate toxic to some animals, especially dogs and cats.

Chocolate has become one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world. Chocolate chip cookies have become very common, and very popular, in most parts of Europe and North America. Gifts of chocolate molded into different shapes have become traditional on certain holidays. Chocolate is also used in cold and hot beverages, to produce chocolate milk and hot chocolate.

Cocoa mass was used originally in Mesoamerica both as a beverage and as an ingredient in foods. Chocolate played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the deities and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. All of the areas that were conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.

The Europeans sweetened and fattened it by adding refined sugar and milk, two ingredients unknown to the Mexicans. By contrast, the Europeans never infused it into their general diet, but have compartmentalized its use to sweets and desserts. In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, creating the modern chocolate bar. Although cocoa is originally from the Americas, today Western Africa produces almost two-thirds of the world's cocoa, with Côte d'Ivoire growing almost half of it.