The sweet, unique taste of chocolate is loved around the world. Even people in ancient times found it incredibly alluring. Chocolate was first discovered and eaten by the Olmecs around 2,000 BCE. The cacao trees, which only grow in tropical climates such as where the Olmecs lived, grow pods with bitter beans. No one is sure how or why, but the Olmecs devised a way to make the cacao beans edible. The process is still used today, and it involved drying, fermenting, roasting, and grinding the beans. The Olmecs mixed the ground cacao beans with other ingredients to form a thick, liquid drink that was revered by generations of peoples to come.
This method of preparing the cacao bean was passed down to the Mayans and the Aztecs, who viewed the concoction as sacred. The dark elixir was mixed and drank for rituals, including blood sacrifices. When the Europeans came to the Americas, they gave chocolate the Latin name Theobroma cacao, which means “food of the gods,” showing the perception that chocolate was incredibly valuable to the Aztecs.
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