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Celebrating Mexico! – Cacao, the royal beverage


During September, Mexico celebrates its independence and is joining the festivities sharing our favorite things about México. Let’s discover together more about the marvelous culture, folklore, gastronomy, festivities, music and traditions that this great country has to offer.

Known as the royal beverage – a sacred brew reserved for pre-Colombian rulers and their accompanying jet set – and an important part of royal and religious events, cocoa or cacao is without a doubt an important Mexican contribution to global cuisine.

The cacao (cocoa in English) was cultivated, used and produced in Mexico since the early 1900’s BC! Traces of its use and consumption have been found at Olmec, Mayan and Aztec archeological sites.  The originis of the word “chocolate” likely come from the Nahuatl word xocolátl, meaning “bitter water”, and entered the English language from Spanish.

Chocolate – as we know it today – comes from the fermented, roasted, and ground beans of  the cacao or cocoa tree. The pre-Columbian people of America drank chocolate in a wide variety of forms. For example, they mixed it with vanilla, maize, chili pepper and achiote. The Aztecs developed a range of chocolate-based cuisine, and, using recipes handed down through the generations, Mexicans have incorporated chocolate into many of their meals.

Until the 16th century, Europeans weren’t aware of the existance of this popular drink in America. Christopher Columbus brought some cocoa beans back to show Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, but it was the Spanish friars who introduced it to Europe more broadly.

The Europeans added sugar and milk to counteract the natural bitterness of the original recipe, and also eliminated the chili pepper, replacing it with another indigenous Mexican spice, vanilla.

In the 19th century, Briton John Cadbury (yes, you are right… the founder of Cadbury Chocolates!) developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate, creating the modern chocolate bar.

And why chocolate is so popular? Obviously, because it’s delicious!  But besides that, let us share with you some interesting facts:

  • Cocoa contains theobromine and phenethylamine, alkaloids that when entering the organism go straight to the brain, increasing the serotonin levels,  which causes effects such as tranquility, euphoria and happiness.
  • Some research has found that chocolate, eaten in moderation, can lower blood pressure.
  • The smell of chocolate may increase theta brain waves, resulting in relaxation.
  • Men who eat chocolate live a year longer than those who don’t.
  • Chocolate increases antioxidant levels in the blood.
  • Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.

Now you know, every time  you sip a cup of hot chocolate or bite into a delicious chocolate bar, you’ll be enjoying a little bit of the Mexican heritage.

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