Maya Chocolate – More than Sweets

According to Maya chocolate, it was given to people after the Sovereign Feathered Serpent God created them from corn. “Ek Chuah”, the god of cocoa, is honored at a festival each April with the sacrifice of a cocoa-colored dog. The Spanish noted that the priests would pierce their earlobes and allow blood to drip onto cocoa as a sacrifice. Slaughter victims were also served cocoa to comfort them in the “Mexica” region before slaughtering at an annual festival.

Archeologists tell us that the Olmecs, who are the parents of the Mayans, were the first to use cocoa around 19000 BC to 400 BC. The Mayan word for chocolate was xocoatl. They also made a Mayan Chocolate drink called chocolate made from roasted cocoa beans, water, and spices. Maya also used cocoa beans as currency. Due to the value of cocoa beans, they were given as gifts for special events and religious ceremonies. Mayan merchants traded cocoa beans for products such as jade, cloth, and ceremonial feathers. Mayan farmers transported their cocoa beans to trade by tying large baskets behind them and canoeing to various markets. 100 cocoa beans could buy a slave.

Until contact with Europeans in 1519, cocoa was reserved for adult men, including priests, senior government officials, military officers, distinguished warriors, and sacrificial beings. Women and children were often excluded because cocoa was intoxicating and valuable. There were archaeological sites where offerings of cocoa were found made to the dead.

The ancient Mayans called the cacao tree “cacahuatquchtl”, declaring that it was the only tree worthy of being named. They felt that the tree was from the gods and that the cocoa pods were the gifts of the god to humans. Mayan chocolate is mentioned in the hieroglyphs and represented with images in its religious implements and architectural structures.

In 4 surviving texts found in the postclassic Mayan period, Mayan chocolate was referred to as food for the gods. Mayan chocolate was instrumental in many of the religious and ceremonial practices. The Mayans were the creators of making a bitter Mayan chocolate drink with the cocoa beans. The Mayan texts describe the drink made from Mayan chocolate as a luxury that is only offered to the nobility and the wealthy to enjoy. Ancient texts also describe how Mayan chocolate was prepared. It varied in the preparation of a refined porridge drink mixed with cornmeal. Images from various artifacts show that cocoa is poured from one container to another to produce foam. Spices like chili were also added to cocoa mixes.

Traditionally, the Mayans did not use sugar and milk in their chocolate drinks. Europeans are the ones who added that to chocolate consumption. However, I did find a recipe or two titled Mayan Hot Chocolate that I’d like to share: Of course, it’s not traditionally Mayan, but they do look interesting:

2 cups boiling water

1 bell pepper cut in half, seeded (with gloves)

5 cups full-fat or fat-free milk cream

1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise

1 to 2 cinnamon sticks

8 ounces dark chocolate or

3 tablets of Mexican chocolate, cut into ¼-inch pieces

2 tablespoons of sugar or honey, or to taste

l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, milled extra fine

Whipped cream

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add Chile pepper to boiling water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove the chile pepper; strain the water and reserve.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla beans, and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around edge. Reduce heat to low; add chocolate and sugar or honey; beat occasionally until chocolate melts and sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat; stir the vanilla bean and cinnamon. Add chili infused water, little by little, testing to make sure the flavor isn’t too strong. If the chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more milk.

Serve in small cups and serve ground almonds or hazelnuts and whipped cream.

Mayan hot chocolate style

2 ounces (squares) of dark sugar-free bakery chocolate

1 cup hot water

3 tablespoons of honey

Salt dash

3 cups hot milk

4 cinnamon bark sticks

Chop the chocolate and heat it in the water until it melts. Add honey, salt and beat the hot chocolate with a balloon whip while adding the hot milk. To make it more frothy and add value to the food, you can hit an egg or two, add hot chocolate, then pour it into the chocolate pot and continue whisking, (but this is not authentic). Serve hot chocolate in cups with cinnamon bar shakers in each (purists will tell you that the cinnamon bark was not indigenous to the Mayan culture)

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