À la découverte des origines du Cacao

Discovering the origins of Cocoa

Cocoa, this divine ingredient that awakens our senses and provides unparalleled sweetness, is much more than a simple taste pleasure. Let's dive together into the depths of its history, which originated among the Mayan people.

The origins of cocoa go back several millennia, in Central America, more precisely within the ancient Mayan and then Aztec civilizations. For the Mayans, cocoa was much more than a food: a symbol of wealth, power and even divinity, which they used in religious ceremonies and as currency. According to the book Popol Wu'uj (the sacred work of Mayan mythology), cocoa is considered a gift from the Gods, who themselves discovered it in the mountains!

The Mayans prepared "xocolātl", a bitter drink made from cocoa beans, water and sometimes chili or other plants used to color it. It was consumed during important ceremonies and offered to warriors before going into battle, because of its stimulating properties.

It has long been thought that cocoa was reserved among the Mayans for the upper castes, including the high priests and kings, and for ceremonies. But recent archaeological discoveries have called this hypothesis into question. We have in fact detected the presence of cocoa residue in containers commonly used by the entire population and far from any official context. This demonstrates to what extent the benefits of cocoa were demonstrated at that time and therefore made accessible to all inhabitants. The Mayans attribute to it in particular energizing qualities, while being anti-stress. They use it to alleviate liver attacks, coughs, or even stomach aches. We also know today that it is extremely rich in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. It helps reduce pressure and soothe anxiety, strengthens muscles and bones, stimulates and protects the liver and gallbladder, facilitates digestion and blood circulation.

It was not until the 16th century, with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World, that cocoa was discovered by Europeans. The Spanish were of course the first to introduce this exotic drink to Europe, where it enjoyed immediate success. However, the bitter taste of cocoa was initially softened by adding sugar and spices, transforming the Native American drink into what we know today as hot chocolate.

Then, in the 19th century, the industrial revolution revolutionized chocolate production, with the invention of the hydraulic press which made it possible to extract cocoa butter from cocoa beans, thus paving the way for the manufacture of solid chocolate. It was also around this time that innovative techniques were developed for mixing sugar, milk and cocoa, creating a variety of chocolates with different flavors and textures. Chocolate in bars or in the shape of an Easter egg is therefore a very recent story!

Today, cocoa is a ubiquitous commodity around the world, used in a multitude of culinary preparations, from exquisite desserts to comforting drinks. However, the cocoa industry faces real challenges. Deforestation, child labor and unsustainable agricultural practices are all concerns that require urgent action to promote fair trade and sustainability. Faced with climate change, cocoa cultivation must reinvent itself and that is so much the better.

One of the interesting ways is certainly to return to consuming cocoa in the form of infusions, from cocoa pods. Indeed, while the beans are harvested, the pods are thrown away: what a waste when we know that the pod contains a higher dose of all the components of cocoa (as is the case for the skin of many other fruits)! In addition, an infusion made from cocoa pods not only has the advantage of having a very pleasant taste, but also of being devoid of fat and of having very little sugar. At TEA TRIBES & Co., 2 infusions made from cocoa pods are well worth a try: MAYANNA and POPOL WU'UJ.

Cocoa will continue to fascinate, stimulating the creativity of the greatest master chocolatiers and pastry chefs. Behind the most innovative creations of Patrick Roger, Jean-Paul Hévin, Cyril Lignac, Jean-Pierre Marcolini, Ducasse, or Bernachon... let us remember that there is a millennial heritage of cultural exchanges, traditions and passions. The next time you taste cocoa, take a moment to remember its rich and varied history...and then let the pleasure take you away!

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