The Origins Of Cacao (Chocolate)

As chocolate week is upon us, we’d love to share the best we have come to research & know from native South Americans & scientists into the history of cacao.

Understandably, there is much debate over where the oldest traces of cacao can be found. 

Traces of cacao have been documented back to ~4000 BC, along the coast of Southeast Mexico in the state of Chiapas and Tabasco, as well as Guatemala and the south-east zones of Peru. 

These Mesoamerican regions were home to cultures such as the Olmecs, Mixe and Zoque cultures, and later Mayan, Inca, Moche, and Nasca.

The scientific name ‘Theobroma Cacao’ was given to the species by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1753. 

Theobroma means 'food of the gods' in Latin, and the word "cacao" is derived from the Nahuatl (Aztec language) word xocolatl, from xococ (bitter) and atl (water). Many ancient cultures believed the cacao bean had magical divine properties, suitable for use in the most sacred rituals of birth, marriage and death.

By the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink throughout Europe, believed to have nutritious, medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. It remained a privilege of the rich until the invention of the steam engine, making mass production of edible chocolate possible in the late 1700s.

And so today in the 21st century, the established literature points back directly to what ancient cultures already knew:

  • Cacao is a heart medicine. 

  • It’s a tonic for the blood.

  • When consumed, it acts on the entire vascular tree of the human body. 

  • It’s gram for gram arguably the most nutritious plant on Earth.

There’s something timeless about sitting with the parts of cacao beyond its physical parts, when we connect more deeply beyond the physical parts of ourselves.

Life is very different in the west, but we believe everyone is able to enjoy all that this plant has to offer in traditional & modern ways.

Happy chocolate week,

Cacao Collective


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