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The history of cocoa

Cocoa is an ancient crop which originated in the Amazonian and central American rainforests.

It was an important part of Aztec and Mayan cultures where the beans were used as a currency, and also converted into a ceremonial bitter and spicy drink called xocolatl.

After the Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortez defeated the Aztec emperor Montezuma in 1519, cocoa was introduced to Europe where it was made into a beverage for royalty and nobility known as Theobroma Cacao, or 'food of the gods'.

Despite this status, it took centuries before the first chocolate bar was made (in Switzerland in 1819) and even longer (1875) for milk chocolate to be invented.  Since then, specialized processing equipment has enabled us all to enjoy chocolate products as we know them today.

Cocoa growing also spread from the Americas to West Africa and South-East Asia where the majority of commercial cocoa is grown and processed today.
 

 


Mayan teracotta sculpture

Over the years, cocoa trees have merged and mingled in a process known as cross-pollination, resulting in a diverse range of beans that have distinct characteristics.  These in turn produce a wide range of flavours and are used for different types of chocolate production.
 


 

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