Christopher Columbus not only discovered America but a boat load of chocolate.
Christopher Columbus was the first European to encounter cocao aka Chocolate. The spread of the cacao tree started during Colonialism, as did the caco beans and chocolate itself. August 15, 1502 on his fourth voyage to the Americas, Columbus and his crew encountered a large dugout canoe near an island off the coast of what is now Honduras. The canoe was the largest native vessel the Spaniards had seen. It was “as long as a galley,” and was filled with local goods for trade — including cacao beans. Columbus had his crew seize the vessel and its goods, and retained its skipper as his guide. At first, the cocoa beans were neglected. Despite the bitterness of the drink produced, Columbus claimed the resulting concoction was a “divine drink which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this precious drink permits a man to walk for a whole day without food”.
Later, Columbus, son Ferdinand wrote about the encounter. He was struck by now much value the Native Americans placed on caco beans, saying: “They seemed to hold these almonds (referring to the cacao beans) at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen.”
What Ferdinand and the other members of Columbus’ crew didn’t know at the time was that cocoa beans were the local currency. In fact, in some parts of Central America, cacao beans were used as currency as recently as the last century.
While it is likely that Columbus brought the cacao beans he seized back to Europe, their potential value was initially overlooked by the Spanish King and his court. Twenty years later, however, Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez is said to have brought back three chests full of cacao beans. This time the beans were recognized as one treasure among the many stolen from the conquered Aztecs.
Excerpt from “The Chocolatier”
Read Charlene’s and Charles discussion on the History of Chocolate.
A smile came to Charlene’s lips as she remembered her first day, the way Charles took his time and explained passionately about the chocolate. Maybe, she would do some research on chocolate to get a better understanding of it. She positioned herself in front of the monitor and typed in, chocolate. There was so much information on the internet that she didn’t know where to begin. She was deep in reading when she heard.
“The history of chocolate, am I rubbing off on you?”
She smiled as she turned. “I just figured I needed a better understanding.”
“Because of work or that you’re interested,” Charles asked?
“Both,” she stated peeking the interest in his eyes.
He adjusted his tie as he sat down. “Etymologists trace the origin of the word ‘chocolate’ to the Aztec word ‘xocoatl,’ which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans.” He gestured. “The Latin name for the cacao tree is Theobroma meaning, ‘food of the gods.’
Many historians have estimated that chocolate has been around for about 2000 years, but recent research suggests that it may be even older. The Aztecs were so enthralled with the bean that they attributed its creation to their god Quetzalcoatl who, as the legend goes descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cacao tree stolen from paradise. In fact, the Aztecs valued the cacao bean so much that they used it as currency.”
Charlene listened closely his tutorial of chocolate was far more interesting than reading it of the screen. Fascinated, she leaned forward not realizing, she had crossed her hands with her elbows on her desk and rested her chin on them giving him all her attention. She listened as he explained in detail how the Aztecs used the cacao beans to prepare a thick, cold, unsweetened drink called chocolatl – a liquid so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after one use. He stood glancing out the window as he spoke of Christopher Columbus, in the year 1502, being the first European to run across the beans on his fourth voyage to the New World.
“Did you know, Columbus came across a canoe which was the largest native ship that the Spaniards had seen? It was as long as a galley, 8 feet wide, and with 25 paddlers with palm roof, filled with local goods for trade, including cacao beans. Columbus had his crew seize the vessel and its goods, and retained its skipper as his guide. Later, Columbus’ son Ferdinand wrote about the encounter. He was struck by how much value the Native Americans placed on cacao beans, and I quote, “They seemed to hold these almonds referring to the cacao beans at a great price; for when they were brought on board the ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen.” He turned. “Am I boring you yet?”
“Not in the least,” she said. “I’m beginning to see chocolate in a new way. I had no idea of chocolate’s history and listening to you is much more interesting than reading it. Please, tell me more.” She could sit and listen to him for hours, he didn’t just tell her about chocolate, he explained in great detail making it so interesting that she was beginning to rethink her like for the confection.
“Alright,” he said. “Hernando Cortez, however, was a man with his eye on a golden doubloon. While he was fascinated with Aztec’s bitter, spicy beverage, he was more impressed by the fact that cacao beans were used as Aztec currency.