Chocolate – Food Of The Gods
Chocolate in Costa Rica
As the story goes, chocolate was once considered gold. Prized by the Aztecs and Mayans, and formerly reserved only for royalty in Europe, chocolate has held an irresistible allure for cultures worldwide over the past 4,000 years. In some areas, chocolate beans were even used as currency.
Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao fruit tree, which originated in the Americas, and grows exclusively in the tropics. The cacao tree’s Latin name, Theobroma Cacao, means “food of the gods.” Both the Mayans and Aztecs believed that cacao beans had magical, or even divine, properties and used them in sacred rituals, as a medicinal cure, and for holiday celebrations.
Etymologists trace the origin of the word “chocolate” to the Aztec word “xocoatl,” which referred to a bitter drink they favored brewed from fermented, roasted and ground cacao beans. Sweetened chocolate didn’t exist until Spanish explorers arrived in the Americas and tried the prized libation. Mixed with honey or cane sugar, hot chocolate quickly became popular throughout Spain. By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink across Europe among royalty and the wealthy.
Although cacao is originally from the Neotropical zone in the Americas, today, cacao is hand-grown on small farms in three main regions: West Africa, South and Central America, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
So, how exactly do these bitter cacao beans become delicious chocolate? There are a variety of tours that you can take if you are interested in learning the entire chocolate making process from seed to tree, to bean, to chocolate. In short though, the cacao beans are first roasted, then cracked, crushed, ground into paste, conched (a device that mixes and mashes) and then tempered (heated, cooled, heated, and cooled) multiple times. The process can last up to a week for higher quality chocolate. We highly recommend the tour offered by our friends at Finca Divina Vida.
Find them here http://www.divinavida.co/info
Cacao is categorized as a superfood and for good reason. Raw cacao has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties. Cacao has been proven to help lower blood pressure, improve brain health, improve cardiovascular health, aid weight loss, help prevent cancer, and improve overall mood, among many other great benefits. High quality dark chocolate is said to have similar effects. Treat yourself like the god or goddess you are and eat more cacao and dark chocolate!