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Saturday, 5 April 2014

Chocolate Drink

The Maya people who lived in Central America from around 300-900 AD were fond of liquid chocolate drinks with a foamy, frothy top but the consumption of chocolate was mainly restricted to the society's elite. The drink was made by mixing the roasted, crushed cocoa beans and ground maize with a little water.

A Maya lord forbids an individual from touching a container of chocolate.

The Aztecs made a thick, foamy, sticky and dyed red chocolate drink made from the roasted and ground seeds of the Cacao tree boiled with water to which they added fruit, maize, pimentos, or hallucinogenic mushrooms. They foamed the chocolate by pouring it from one cup into another.

The Aztecs considered the cocoa plant to be so precious that they sometimes used it as money. They called it "xocalatl" meaning warm or bitter liquid.

The Aztecs used many different flavorings including chilli, annatto (which turned the mouth a shade of red), pepper and honey. In adding honey they developed a sweetened chocolate.

The custom for the Aztecs was to serve chocolate after a feast, in a special cup called “xicalli” made out of a fruit from a calabash tree.

Chocolate was considered beneficial to Aztec warriors and cacao wafers, intended to be dissolved as needed, were issued to soldiers, in order to fortify them during marches and in battle.

The Spaniards in the New World changed the way chocolate was prepared. They were put off by the drink's black, gloomy appearance, and found its taste far too bitter and spicy. So, the Spanish added cane sugar as a sweetener, and flavorings such as vanilla, or more mild spices such as cinnamon and black pepper as opposed to chillies. A foam was created with the “molinillo”, a wooden whisk-like tool that was twirled between the palms of the hands to mix the chocolate.

Cortez took the drink to Spain where it served as a luxurious beverage to only the highest social classes: royalty, military, long-distance traders, and Catholic clergy.

Chocolate remained a Spanish secret until the middle of the 17th century where it spread rapidly to France, Britain and the rest of Europe.

English 16th century pirates, who routinely preyed on Spanish vessels, evidently remained unfamiliar with chocolate. One pirate ship burnt an entire shipload of cacao beans, under the impression that they were sheep droppings.

Cardinal Richelieu’s elder brother Alphonse de Richelieu, was the first Frenchman to consume chocolate. He drunk it “to moderate the vapours of his spleen.”

England’s first cup of chocolate was brewed in 1647.

London's first chocolate house, The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll, in Gracechurch Street opened in 1657. The owner, an imaginative Frenchman, advertised it as a drink which “cures and preserves the body of many diseases.” Costing 10 to 15 shillings per pound, chocolate was considered a beverage for the elite class.

The issue of the Publick Adviser for June 16, 1657, reported: "In Bishopgate Street, in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house is an excellent West India drink called chocolate, to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates."

It was said that the only passions of King Louis XIV of France's queen, Maria Theresa of Spain, were chocolate and his majesty.

When Maria married Louis in 1660, chocolate was still considered a curiosity in France and indeed in Paris there was only one chocolate merchant when she arrived.

Maria Theresa brought from Spain with her the chocolate pot, a special tall vessel for serving the beverage. The lid had a hole in the top into which a beater was fitted to make the chocolate foam, when it was poured into the cup.

The 17th-century Frenchman Cardinal Mazarin never traveled without his personal chocolate-maker.

The church allowed chocolate to be drunk during Lent in the late 17th century and society ladies had the drink served during sermons.

The diarist, Samuel Pepys, was in the habit of indulging in a morning drink of “Chocalatte.”

The addition of milk, much improving chocolate as a drink, was a London innovation in about 1700.

Joseph Fry was a Quaker who had been a doctor before founding in 1756 Fry and Sons of Bristol, chocolate manufacturers. Fry was motivated to go into the chocolate industry out of concern for the fact that, owing to the dangers involved in drinking water, children were consuming beer, ale and even gin. As tea was too expensive, cocoa appeared to be the best alternative.

In 1780 Irish chocolate-maker John Hanan who was importing cocoa beans from the West Indies into Dorchester, Massachusetts opened the first American chocolate factory, Walter Baker and Co, with the financial help of American Dr. James Baker.

Joseph Roundtree, a successful English businessman, opened a new cocoa factory on the outskirts of York in 1881. A Quaker, he hoped to succeed in persuading the poor to give up alcohol in favor of a healthier chocolate drink. By the end of the 19th century Rowntree's was Britain's eightieth largest manufacturing employer.

When you tap your spoon on the bottom of a cup of hot chocolate, the pitch of the sound will increase. The phenomenon is known as the “Hot Chocolate Effect”.

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