Kakawa Tree

LEGEND: Once upon a time there was a magic tree, which the Mayas called cacao, and which yielded its crop not for dwellers of the earth, but solely for the gods. It was then that a man was born on earth. And he was destined to become a gardener. The gardens he cultivated were magic ones Lush green leaves rustled in the wind, brilliantly colored flowers bloomed in the shadow of overhanging gigantic trees. The gods were extremely impressed by the gardener's consummate mastery and bestowed a cacao tree on him.


1500 BC: Olmec civilization on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico - a possible cradle of chocolate. First mention of the word “kakawa”.


The gardener marveled at the oval-shaped cacao beans w their distinctive bitter flavor, which made a strong invigorating drink. The drink, which was soon elevated to the status of an elixir, was exchanged for gold. The gardener rose to fame and fortune. But he soon became intoxicated by his own success and declared himself equal to the gods. 

This naturally aroused the fury of the gods, who punished the gardener by depriving him of reason. Absolutely insane, the gardener destroyed his own magic gardens. His blazing glory all turned to dust...

But the gardener’s mortal hand could not wreak havoc on something, which was of divine nature in the garden: the cacao tree was fortunate to survive and still continues to bless people with its wonderful beans - the very crop, which is made into chocolate.

The end of the triumph of the gods: Tales have it that “In the name of the King! In the name of chocolate!" were the words uttered by the last Aztec fighting against Cortes' troops when he was fatally hit by a Spanish bullet. The triumph of the chocolate gods was thus over. Cortes conquered the entire territory of Mexico. Indians shelled out gold to pay a heavy tribute but nothing seemed to slake the Spaniards’ thirst for wealth. They continued to plunder their way throughout the country storming and looting an increasing number of cities. But the Aztecs had something else, which they treasured more than gold - it was chocolate. Their king, Montezuma, even threw a feast for Cortes to introduce him to “chocolate" and persuade him to give up his scorched-earth policy.

Cortes bamboozled the king into disclosing his secret recipe for the cocoa drink. Montezuma even went so far as to pack his hall with gold and cocoa and present it to the cold-blooded invader as a gift. But his efforts to win the Spaniards' favor proved futile. The last Aztec king was put to death and his country - virtually razed to the ground. 


1000 BC: Birth of the Mayan civilization. The Maya make a bitter-flavored beverage from holy cocoa trees adding different spices and ingredients.

The Spaniards laid their hand on some part of the Aztec soul - the secret of chocolate. To make the chocolate know¬how his exclusive property, Cortes killed ruthlessly every Indian familiar with cocoa-making. Invaders loaded up their galleons with cocoa beans and set sail for their homeland where fortune and glory awaited them. The Drink of the Gods arrived in Spain to become the drink of the European kings That's when chocolate started its maiden voyage throughout the world, earning it very high admiration. Every bar of chocolate was bestowed with the magic power of mighty gods and... some part of the Aztec soul.

Time of mysteries: Cortes' ships slid into the harbor. Captain General Cortes was met by the King of Spain himself. For the cruelty committed in Mexico, Cortes had to ultimate price of cocoa beans. Spain embraced hot ; a new product; it was also admitted to the secret of the magic drink with an energizing effect on mind and body, providing  a remedy to help overcome various diseases.



Beware you will be persecuted by the Holy Inquisition for any quest for the secret knowledge of chocolate making" - such was a warning to rank and file Spaniards as chocolate strictly a royal-tag drink and remained something of a 0 among ordinary mortal humans, who were banned from preparing or even taking a sip of it. Monk and scholar Benzoni confessed to the king that chocolate was credited with mystical powers of the elixir of life. Hence, divulgers of the chocolate secret were all burned at the stake. However, it did not scare away recipe-hunters - in adventurous spirit they stuck with the exciting challenge and sometimes even triumphed...



250-800 AD: Climax of the Mayan civilization. Cacao beans are prohibitively expensive and used as a currency. The Maya worship the goddess of chocolate - Ixcacao. She offers comforting goblets of cocoa from extensive cocoa plantations. “Chocolate” becomes an important part of all sacred rites.

The Aztec recipe was in the meantime modified. Spanish confectioners developed a milder version omitting chilli pepper and other unusually piquant spices and adding sugar, cinnamon and cloves. The resulting substance acquired a different taste but it still divine. The Spaniards amassed considerable wealth by exporting the drink to different countries while keeping the recipe strictly confidential. High customs duties on cocoa beans as overseas imports meant it was a drink only for the wealthy. “Chocolate is a luxury treat reserved for the elite, because drinking chocolate is equal to drinking money” - a catch-phrase in 16th century Spain.


Kakawa Cocoa BeansBraking the spell: the best selling mystery of chocolate was cleared up in 1615. When Louis XIII of France married Anne of Austria, Infant of Spain, the latter categorically * refused to relocate to France without her chambermaid Molina, who was an expert at making chocolate. Molina became the number one chocolatier - distinguished chefs from all over the world assembled around her to gain an insight into the technologies involved in chocolate production. While France and Spain remained bound to absolute confidentiality and the rest of Europe continued to suffer from a desperate absence of chocolate, Francesco Carletti, an Italian merchant, embarked on a ship bound to America to reach the shores of the country formerly inhabited by the Aztecs and taste the Drink of the Gods. “Write it all down, white-faced man” - he was told by a descendant of the surviving priest, who laid bare the secret of chocolate making. Thus the proud son of the Aztecs avenged himself on the Spaniards and Europe got the long-awaited chocolate recipe in its grasp.

The Italians were overjoyed. They began to use chocolate as an essential ingredient of many confectionery items. Chocolate was thrust into the limelight rather than being barred from public access. An increasing number of chocolaterias sprang up for all to come and enjoy the divine drink. A delightfully subtle chocolate aroma enveloped the Venetian canals.

“Hot chocolate - a piquant novelty” was often heard in Perugia, reputed to be the chocolate city. Chocolate started its eventful trip around the world.



1200 AD: Aztec Empire rules the area in and around Mexico. Chocolate is called Cacahuatl (foamy water). Chocolate takes on a meaningful social, political and religious focus. 


New legends: chocolate is no longer wrapped up in a shroud of mystery. It is broadly available, but still remains an expensive pleasure. A cup of hot chocolate with an aromatic flavor does not add an exotic touch but is an attribute of the cream of society marked by elegance of style and impeccable taste.


Chocolate House in England, Confiserie Chocolat in France and Konditorei Schokolade in Germany offer a unique opportunity to order a mind-blowing array of chocolates. Rumors still abound, however, and there are plenty of funny legends, of which one claims that the natural habitat for the cocoa tree can be found somewhere in paradise! Leading physician Christopher Hoffmann recommended chocolate as a cure for an array of diseases but warned mums-to-be against eating it. Hoffman claimed that chocolate increased the chance of delivering black babies!


1500 AD: Chocolate enters the highest ranks of priests and nobility. The last Aztec ruler Montezuma is served 50 cups of chocolate every day based on the following recipe: coffee beans are roasted, grated with maize grains, plus honey, vanilla and agave juice, and are whisked together until foamy.

Devout Christians in Europe were keen to know if chocolate could be part of their fasting diet. They even brought this question to the attention of the Pope. Pope Pius V did not place an interdict on chocolate, saying such a bitter drink could not tempt fasting parishioners. The neat trick involved was that the confectioner omitted sugar from the recipe and thus saved believers from chocolate abstinence.


Discoveries: the breakthrough in chocolate industry came in 1819. Francois Louis Callier developed a process to create a smooth paste known as cocoa butter. The chocolate drink was thus adapted for eating. As a next step, Callier molded the butter into the first ever chocolate bar, similar to that we know today, without supplements though.

Another lucky find: German doctors are now encouraging the consumption of black chocolate as an active agent against cardiac infarction and cerebral stroke.

Chocolate makes its appearance in various forms. But doctors remain unanimous in strongly recommending any form of chocolate as a means to lighten a gloomy downbeat mood. The point is that theobromine found in chocolate has a narcotic effect on the body and causes an increased secretion of pleasure hormones. Isn’t this the ultimate triumph of the Aztec spirit? 


1519 AD: Aztec Empire Collapses. Hernan Cortes conquers the capital city of Tenochtitlan. A bitter drink derived from cocoa beans repels the Spaniards but they are intrigued by the elixir's refreshing strength.