Supposedly, chocolate is a pre-columbian discovery beginning in 1200 b.c. in Central, South America and the Amazon regions. It has been found in an ancient Maya "teapot" which "...reopens the whole debate about who first invented chocolate," said Jonathan Haas, curator of the mouthwatering "Chocolate" exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago. Whether the Maya were the first to invent chocolate or not, they definitely used it. It is even found in the Popol Vuh, a ancient book of mytho-historical narratives of the Post Classic Quiché kingdom in Guatemala's western highlands.
There are many different recipes of the hot chocolate, or hot cocoa, drink; which are apparently not the same thing. In Guatemala, you will find round chocolate disk-shaped patties ready to be prepared into a hot drink. These disks are put into boiling water where they dissolve into this typical drink. This kind of chocolate is different from the hot cocoa people are used to in the States. It has more of a cinnamon-like flavor and isn't as rich. If prepared with milk, you might get different results. Green & Black's , a UK chocolate company, touts their Maya Gold chocolate has some of the same spice flavor you would find in Guatemalan/Maya chocolate. "Traditionally the Maya Indians in southern Belize flavoured their cocoa with spices. We recapture this by blending rich, dark chocolate with a refreshing twist of orange that is perfectly balanced by the warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of vanilla."
While researching the history of chocolate, I found this story pretty funny:
"Thomas Gage (1603-1656), an English Dominican friar and traveler, tried to intervene with the Bishop of Chiapas, Mexico over the congregation drinking chocolate during services. The women were fond of chocolate and turned church services into a coffeehouse. The Bishop tried to end this, and was consequently found dead. Poisoned chocolate was sent to the Bishop and Thomas Gage fled Chiapas. The rumor was that the women, who so hated the Bishop for this restriction, poisoned him with chocolate, hence the proverb "Beware the chocolate of Chiapa."
There are, of course, many claims that hot cocoa has curative powers, especially for high blood pressure due to a study done with the Kuna Indian tribe. "Studies show the flavonols in cocoa stimulate your body's production of nitric oxide --boosting blood flow to your heart, brain, and other organs. In fact, one study found cocoa thins your blood just as well as low-dose aspirin" It is also claimed to help treat blocked arteries, congestive heart failure, stroke, dementia, and impotence.
But, did you really need an excuse to enjoy chocolate? Have you tried the Guatemalan version?