Here we present interesting facts about chocolate in Mexico, its characteristics, and its industry.
Description of Chocolate
The word ‘chocolate’ comes from the Aztec word ‘xocoatl‘.
Chocolate (xocolatl) is a mixture of the paste and butter of the cacao (cocoa) seed with spices and water. The chocolate drink has a strong, thick flavor and stimulating effects.
Origin of Chocolate
Chocolate has its origin in Mexico, as the origin of the cacao tree from which the cacao seed stems, is found in the states of Tabasco, Campeche, and Chiapas, along the Pacific Coast.
Chocolate in Pre-Hispanic Mexico
The Olmecs of La Venta, Tabasco were most likely the first humans to drink chocolate. At an Olmec archaeological site, traces found inside ancient vessels indicate that the preparation of chocolate by pre-Olmec peoples was as early as 1750 BC. The Olmecs extracted the cacao seeds, fermented and roasted them, then made a paste to make the thick chocolate drink.
Chocolate was also present in the Mayan culture. In an early Classic-period (460–480 AD) Maya tomb, vessels with the Maya cacao glyph on them with chocolate drink residue, indicates preparation of the chocolate drink by the Maya. The Mayan peoples grew cacao trees and used the cacao seeds make a frothy, bitter drink.
Here is a video describing a Mayan vessel with Underworld Gods: A Royal Maya Chocolate Vase with Underworld Gods – YouTube
As indigenous peoples migrated cacao acquired a great value. Chocolate was a symbol of wealth. As a drink it was reserved only for warriors and high society figures. Only nobles, warriors and high society figures could drink chocolate. In some cases, it was a beverage intended for celebrations or rites.
Since chocolate was considered a symbol of wealth, the cup (jicara) used to drink was adorned with a small spoon of gold, silver, or precious wood.
For the Zapotec and Mixtec peoples of the Oaxaca Valley it was reserved for royalty and ceremonial feasts. In the 11th century, in Monte Alban, its use was recorded in an ancient pre-Columbian document, the Codex Nuttal, where the marriage celebration of the Mixtec ruler Iya Nacuaa Teyusi Ñaña (called by historians as 8 deer) took place.
In the Aztec culture, in the 15th century, chocolate was associated with Quetzalcoatl. The chocolate the Aztecs drank was not hot and was seasoned it with a variety of additives. For the Aztecs, xocoatl was made with cacao beans, chili pepper, vanilla, honey, and allspice. It was bitter and spicy.
In general, in Pre-Hispanic Mexico, cacao was also mixed with sapote seeds and corn and shaped into small chocolate balls. These were then mixed with hot water. Chocolate was also prepared with honey, flowers, achiote, acuyo (holy grass) and pinole.
Chocolate after the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico
The Aztecs offered xololatl as a gift to the Spaniards. The chocolate drink was quickly adopted and reached Europe. Later, it was modified, and the chocolate bar was introduced in the 1800’s.
Chocolate has over 600 flavor compounds.
Chocolate Production in Mexico
Mexico ranks thirteenth in the production of chocolate, with over 26 thousand tons per year.
The chocolate industry in Mexico is worth 51 million pesos (mdp) a year and generates over 55 thousand direct jobs.
Chocolate Routes in Mexico
Here are chocolate routes you can follow in the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca.
Chocolate Route in Tabasco
You can experience the process of making chocolate in the state of Tabasco. ng chocolate. Below are beautiful haciendas where chocolate production takes place:
- Hacienda Jesús María: the hacienda has a chocolate factory where you can experience the chocolate process. It has lodging and rooms and is decorated in the old cacao hacienda style. You can also enjoy the chocolate products of its Cacep Chocolates brand.
- Hacienda Cholula: this hacienda consists of a more ecological style. It carries out research on flora and fauna and tries to raise consciousness about the preservation of cultural heritage. You can experience the process of converting cacao to chocolate in its chocolate factory. You can also enjoy its chocolate products of its El Chontal brand.
- Hacienda La Luz: this is a museum and historic site. This was one of the first haciendas that industrialized cocoa to manufacture chocolate from the famous region of La Chontalpa. The Cocoa and Chocolate Museum is a site where you can see the process of making chocolate, from harvesting to paste, then packaged in molds. Chocolate is prepared in an artisanal manner.
Chocolate Routes in Chiapas
According to experts, the best chocolates in the world are produced in the region of Soconusco, Chiapas!
Below are sites where chocolate production takes place.
- Finca El Paraíso makes a dark chocolate bar, with name Demetria, with 71% cocoa. It was awarded a silver medal in 2017, by The Academy of Chocolate Awards (United Kingdom).
- San José is the first chocolate factory in Chiapas, founded in 2002.
- Parque del Chocolate de Tuxtla Chico
Chocolate Routes in Oaxaca
In Juchitán and Monte Albán, Oaxaca, you can savor traditional chocolate. In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, bu’pu is served, a traditional drink made from cacao. Bu’pu means “foam” in the Zapotec of this region.
Other communities in Oaxaca, such as San Mateo del Mar, Teotitlán del Valle, and Santa María Atzompa, also have a series of chocolate drinks made with cacao, such as “Chone” and “Chilate“.
For more information and chocolate products in Mexico:
Agri-Food and Fisheries Information Service (SIAP)
Stuart, David. “The Río Azul Cacao Pot: Epigraphic Observations on the Function of a Maya Ceramic Vessel.” Antiquity, vol. 62, no. 234, 1988, pp. 153–157., doi:10.1017/S0003598X00073634.