Though many people are becoming familiar with the numerous health benefits included in cocoa beans, it's also important to realize the history of this important “superfood”. Since cocoa beans have now been classified as a “superfood”, they have become increasingly important in many areas of nutritional health.
The cocoa bean is a product of the cacao tree, which produces cacao pods. Inside each cacao pod, there are anywhere from 30 to 50 cocoa beans. In addition to this, there is a sweet pulp surrounding the cocoa beans, which is called “baba de cacao” by some cocoa bean harvesters. The appearance of the cocoa bean ranges from pink, brown or purple, and the texture of the cocoa bean is fairly soft.
It is speculated that the Cacao tree was first introduced to Central America in ancient times, by the Mayas. In Mexico, the cacao tree was grown and harvested by the Olmecs, and eventually became a common form of currency throughout the Americas. This was, of course, prior to the Spanish conquest of the area. The cacao tree is considered to be a native species to the Americas, though other speculated origins include the Amazon, more specifically at the base of the Andes mountains.
When Hernan Cortes fist began the conquest of Mexico, he came into contact with Montezuma II, who was the current emperor over the Aztecs. In the chronicles of his journey, it is recorded that Montezuma would not approve of any other beverage at his meals except for chocolate. When dining on chocolate, Montezuma reportedly ate with a golden spoon, out of a golden goblet. At this time, powdered cocoa beans were combined with spices, vanilla, and other ingredients, then whipped into a foam. Reportedly, 200 portions of this chocolate beverage were consumed by Montezuma's court of nobles on a daily basis, while Montezuma consumed 50 chocolate beverages each day.
It is recorded that Chocolate was first introduced in the European area sometime during the 1600's, most likely by the Spaniards. In addition to this, the Spaniards began cultivating the cacao tree population, expanding to areas such as the Philippines, as well as the West Indies. Ironically, the botanical name of the cacao plant itself is “Theobroma Cacao”, which, loosely translated, means “food of the gods”. Cocoa beans were a staple of society in many areas around the world, and have rapidly grown in popularity in today's society.
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