Posts Tagged ‘Chocotate’

Original article: Kanu.org


File image #3521, AMNH Library, Anasazi pottery, Pueblo Bonito, Chcao Canyon, New Mexico

A thousand years ago, the Ancestral Puebloans in Chaco Canyon crafted cylinder-shaped drinking vessels. They look like tall water glasses decorated with beautiful triangles and zigzag lines. Archeologists think these jars had a special purpose: they were used for drinking chocolate.

Patricia Crown, a researcher at the University of New Mexico, noticed the jars looked similar to vessels used by the Mayans for chocolate drinking. Crown tested pottery sherds from Chaco Canyon, and, sure enough, turned up chemical markers specific to cacao. The finding implies extensive trade or migration between the residents of the Colorado Plateau and their neighbors in Mesoamerica. Chocolate must have been among the goods carried up from the south, along with copper bells and scarlet macaws.

It’s not clear how Southwest people prepared their cacao. But the Mayans and Aztecs sweetened it with honey or added ground maize. They made the chocolate light and frothy by pouring it from jar to jar. Crown suspects frothing wasn’t just to improve the taste, but a kind of performance art, as well.

Around the start of the 12th century, the people of Chaco Canyon stopped using the chocolate drinking vessels—in a dramatic way. They piled up more than a hundred of the jars in a room and set fire to it. But they didn’t give up chocolate… they just drank it out of mugs instead.

Today, the Chaco Heritage Tribal Association is conducting the first-ever tribal led survey of the Chaco area, with Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo people looking back to the lives of their ancestors.


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Topic: Chocolate and beer

Scientists believe the first cacao beverages were sipped from vessels like this one, which was found in northern Honduras.

People have been enjoying chocolate for more than 3,000 years—about 500 years earlier than previously believed, according to a new study.

Researchers also think that chocolate was discovered by accident—when Central American Indians making beer from the pulp of cacao seedpods found a new use for a byproduct of that process.

The new findings about chocolate’s origins were gleaned from traces of cacao found on pottery fragments dating from about 1100 B.C. to 800 B.C.

The fragments were uncovered between 1995 and 2000 at archaeological excavations near Puerto Escondido in Honduras.

From Beer to Chocolate

Today’s chocolate is made from the fermented seeds of the cacao tree, which only grows near the Equator.

Around 1100 B.C., ancient beer makers used the cacao’s seedpods to make their drinks. The pods—which were a little smaller than a modern American football—were fermented, and then the pod pulp was used to make the beer. The seeds were discarded.

“It was beer with a high kick,” said study author Rosemary Joyce, an anthropologist at University of California, Berkeley.

“But it would not have tasted anything like the chocolate we have today.”

About 300 years later, however, people began using the discarded fermented seeds to make a non-alcoholic beverage that was highly prized despite its bitter taste, said study author John Henderson, an anthropologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The drink was poured from special pitchers that created froth in the drinking cups and served to celebrate special occasions such as marriages and births, Joyce said. (Related news: “Chocolate and Holidays—A Long History” [March 29, 2002].)

The researchers chemically analyzed the Honduran pottery fragments, once the special pitchers, and found cacao residue.

Spanish explorers took the non-alcoholic chocolate beverage to Europe in the 16th century. Today’s familiar milk-chocolate bars first appeared in the United States in 1894. (See a picture of a chocolate sculpture.)

California author Ann Krueger Spivack, who wrote The Essence of Chocolate with John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg, was not involved in the study.

The discovery that fermented cacao seeds could be used to make a chocolate beverage was a “happy accident”—one that eventually gave the world one of its most popular pleasures, she said.

The new research into chocolate’s history could “fuel creativity and spark the imagination of chocolatiers and chefs,” Alice Medrich, author of Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, said by email.

“As a result, we get new ideas about using chocolate in savory as well as sweet dishes and about pairing the flavors of chocolate with other flavors, too,” Medrich said.

“New dishes and new trends are born. And new ideas spread from the most innovative and elite kitchens quickly, ultimately becoming products on supermarket shelves.”

Original article:

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
November 12, 2007

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