Chocolate is a food made from the seeds of a tropical tree called the cacao. These trees flourish in warm, moist climates. Most of the world's cacao beans come from West Africa, where Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria are the largest producers. Because of a spelling error, probably by English traders long ago, these beans became known as cocoa beans.
What is the history of chocolate?
The history of chocolate dates back more than 2000 years ago to the time of the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations. The word "chocolate" is derived from the Aztec "xocoatl" which means bitter drink. The Mayan Indians of Mexico and Central America created an unsweetened beverage with ground cocoa beans exalting it as the food of the gods. In 1528, the Spanish explorer Cortez brought chocolate from the Aztecs to Spanish royalty where it was kept a secret to be enjoyed only by nobility. As the Spanish royalty intermarried with other European royalty, cocoa was given as dowry and by mid-century the secret was out. Hot chocolate was mixed with honey and spices and the drink gained widespread popularity throughout Europe. By the 1700's chocolate houses were as prominent as coffee houses in England. Chocolate had reached most of the middle class by the 19th century as expanded sea trade aided in chocolate becoming an affordable luxury.