The story of chocolate has a rich and compelling history, and researchers like myself learn more about it every day.
Chocolate is made by fermenting, drying, roasting and grinding the seeds of a small tropical tree of the genus Theobroma. Indigenous peoples of Central America and Mexico use many other theobroma species to make food, drink, and medicine.
Cacao was domesticated at least 4,000 years ago, first in the Amazon basin and then in Central America. The earliest archaeological evidence for cocoa, probably dating from around 3,500 BC, comes from Ecuador. In Mexico and Central America, vessels containing cocoa residues date back to 1,900 BC.
Cacao is the name in many languages of Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America) both for the tree, the seed, and the preparations resulting therefrom. Those who use the term nod to an ancient Indigenous past. Cacao is a convenient blanket term, and the English word “bread” describes baked goods made from flour, water, and yeast.
For thousands of years, Mesoamericans have used cacao for a variety of purposes. As ceremonial offerings, medicine, and an important ingredient in special occasion and everyday food and drink, each had different names. was called.
Colonialists and Currencies
How did chocolate become as popular as wildfire when its birthplace was long neglected? Its first use was as a currency rather than as something to eat or drink. It shows the steady development of cocoa in its role. The Rio Ceniza Valley, in what is now western El Salvador, was one of his four large agricultural centers that greatly expanded the cocoa money supply in the 13th century and was an exceptional production site.
Spanish settlers quickly made the convenient and reliable cocoa coinage legal tender in all kinds of transactions. However, they were initially skeptical of ingesting the substance, arguing over its health effects and flavor. It became famous as a place where newly arrived settlers could build their wealth. “Chocolat” is a local cacao drink.
crossing the world
Despite a hesitant start, chocolate became immensely popular in Europe by the late 16th century. Among the new flavors from the Americas, chocolate was particularly appealing. Most importantly, drinking chocolate has become a means of socializing.
It also became increasingly associated with luxury and indulgence in terms of sinfulness, and with healthful properties especially enhancing beauty and fertility. They used the word chocolate to describe confectionery, drinks, and sauces.
Chocolate soon began to change people’s ways. As Spanish literary scholar Carolyn Nadeau points out, “Before chocolate, breakfast was not a communal event like lunch and dinner.”
As chocolate became more popular in Spain, so did breakfast. It also became popular as an afternoon or late-night snack, along with rolls and fried bread. The ancestor of today’s breakfast churros.
By the 18th century, various chocolate recipes filled the pages of European cookbooks, demonstrating how important chocolate had become at all levels of society. Far from their indigenous origins in Central America, enslaved Africans worked on new plantations in Latin America and later West Africa, growing much of the cocoa that fed the expanding global market.
For manufacturers and consumers, chocolate has created vivid connections with class, gender and race. Chocolate has become an exciting shorthand for blackness.
The globalization of chocolate has deepened deep inequalities. For example, 75% of chocolate consumption takes place in Europe, the United States and Canada, while he 100% of the world’s cocoa is produced by black, indigenous, Latin American and Asian peoples. Africans consume the least, at 4%.
It is mainly produced by hand and is a source of livelihood for up to 50 million people, mainly in developing countries. The COVID-19 pandemic made things even worse. Reduced travel, restrictions on gatherings, disruptions to supply he chains, and poor access to healthcare are hitting production communities hard.
Meanwhile, large cocoa buyers and traders have cut or suspended their cocoa purchases for as long as two years to weather the storm of uncertain consumer demand through the pandemic.
inequality, fair trade, farmers
Current trends are deeply rooted in chocolate’s past. Chocolate consumption continues to grow. Today, Europeans are the largest consumers of chocolate, and the UK is Europe’s largest, with an annual per capita consumption of her 8.1kg, the largest market for fair trade chocolate.
As the chocolate market grows, so does the problem of social inequality and environmental destruction. Carla Martin, Founder and Director of the Fine Cocoa and Chocolate Institute, and I explained that the path to economic, social and environmental sustainability will require a wide range of significant investments.
To help farmers identify and access the genetic diversity of cocoa, and to understand how genetic profiles relate to improved crop resilience and productivity, the University of Reading We are already making significant efforts with the cocoa germplasm database.
Innovative social enterprises such as Cocoa360 are incubators to address the major challenges facing cocoa farmers and paint a more hopeful future for chocolate and the people who make it. Think about that as you unboxing another Ferrero Rocher this Christmas.
(This article was shared by PTI via The Conversation)