“Chokola’j”, History of Chocolate Popularity on the Rise

The Mayan Society of Mesoamerica drank chocolate together and called this popular social act “Chokola’j” (C. Martin, Mesoamerica and “the food of the gods”). History is often written through landmark events that shaped it, but often without the mentioning of the common human who made it, this is especially true about the history of chocolate. The significance of chocolate came from the captivating ability of chocolate to touch hearts and transcend social, cultural, lingual, and physical barrios and dovetail the Americas and Europe with a power even mightier than that of the military and economic powers, the social power of chocolate. In Sweetness and Power, Sidney W. Mintz argues that the simple decision of the common human in post-colonial European societies to consume Mesoamerican commodities made history through changing the meaning of labor, self-identity, and commodity: “In understanding the relationship between commodity and person, we unearth anew the history of our selves” (qtd by C. Martin, Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor, Mintz, 1985, page214). Mintz is right, for unraveling the history of Chocolate’s popularity unravels the western hemisphere’s origins of wealth distribution, social habits, economic relationships, and self-identities. More importantly it can define our future path towards what is responsible, just, and right for a prosperous chocolate future that involves all stakeholders and shareholders. The beautiful moments of happiness, comfort, and love passing through the lives of millions of people eating and drinking chocolate every day lure intellectual curiosity to trace what key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time.

Chocolate(Chocolate, a stack of the different kinds of chocolate, dark, milk and white) (André Karwath aka, Feb, 2005.)

In The True History of Chocolate Sophie and Michael Coe explain that “It was the Maya who first taught the Old World how to drink Chocolate, and it was the Maya who gave us the word “cacao.” They deserve recognition in the culinary history of Theobroma Cacao.”(Coe and Coe, P.66). Archeological records of historical Mayan documents and artifacts like the Maya Princeton Vase of the 8th century stands testimony to the ancient Mayan chocolate-socializing habits, it depicts a Mayan royal palace with people seated in a scene with a woman preparing chocolate (Coe and Coe, P.50). Over time chocolate spread from the Mesoamerican elites to European elites and amplified in popularity among the masses. Chocolate and coffee houses were a part of the English life in 17th century England where the Italian Lorenzo Magalotti who lived in England between 1668 and 1688 AD described these houses: “…Where coffee is sold publicly, and not just coffee, but other drinks, like chocolate.”(Coe and Coe, P.171).

800px-Maya_vase(Mayan Vase, the Princeton Vase depicting chocolate) (Unknown, Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD)

Chocolate-house-london-c1708(Socializing inside the English: White’s Chocolate House, London) (Unknown Artist, 1708)

It is academically imperative to narrate the historical change that transpired through time over what contributed to the increase in chocolate’s popularity and spread from the Mesoamerican and European elites to the different classes of society in Europe, the Americas, and transversely the world. In order to interpret colonial military, economic, and social factors that contributed to the spread of chocolate it is necessary to mention the documents, encounters, and records found in Rio Ceniza Valley, located in today’s El Salvador ( C. Martin, lecture 3 “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018). The 17th century’s “Recordation Florida of Antonio Fuentes y Guzman” was imperative as it revealed the cocoa beans-based Nahua counting system that was used by the Mayans as their local currency, which was a mammoth economic factor behind the Spanish military colonization campaigns triggered by the Spanish desire to adopt that currency system and demand part of the Mesoamerican crops (C. Martin, Lecture 3, “Chocolate Expansion”, 2018).The other significant document to illuminate on the social power factor that contributed the most to increased popularity of chocolate was the original chocolate recipe found in Rio Ceniza ( C. Martin, Chocolate Expansion). A European style drawing in the 16th century Codex Tudela shows us an Aztec woman foaming Chocolate evoking similarities to the Mayan Princeton Vase, which depicted a woman foaming chocolate eight centuries earlier (Coe and Coe, P.88).The factor of the transfer of Mesoamerican recipes will be the most powerful of all because the chocolate recipe that we know traveled through European colonists to Europe and created anew the trend of the chocolate commodity consumption in Europe. Chocolate recipes were first moved by elite catholic clergy into Spain, Italy, France, and Britain. In 1636 Antonio de Leon Pinelo, a Spanish catholic wrote a book debating the morality of chocolate and its inclusion into European diets and religious traditions (Coe and Coe, P. 152). Coe and Coe explain that “Lion Pinelo gives details on production as well as recipes for the drink, he is also extremely knowledgeable about cacao, chocolate, and various writers on chocolate.” (Coe and Coe, P.152)


(European styled drawing of Aztec Lady Preparing Chocolate, Mujer Vertiendo Chocolate – Codex Tudela) (Anonymous, circa 1553)

Knowledge of chocolate and its recipes got adopted by the masses and spread along European colonial societies including North America. In The History of Classic American Dessert, Carla Martin explains that “Newspaper advertisements for chocolate sales in the colonies have been traced back to the early eighteenth century, as have customs logs and diary entries mentioning chocolate” (C. Martin, 2012). In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the Xocolat familiar: “Contains recipes written in an elegant 19th century hand, giving precise measurements for chocolate blends prepared especially for local families.”(M.E. Presilla, 30, 2009). Based on the above literary and material sources it is evident that the Mesoamerican chocolate traditions were adopted by Europeans and North Americans, which induced significant change defining labor, social, and economic change. It cannot go unstated that this steered an ever increased demand, which brought about the tragedies of slavery, colonization, massive inequality in distribution of prosperity and wealth, and went all the way to restructuring the sense of western world Norms, struggles, and identities .

In The New Taste of Chocolate, M.E. Presilla reveals the 1874 invention of the Melangeur:” The Melangeur is one of the most versatile and long lasting inventions of the industrial revolution of chocolate manufacturing.” (M.E.Presilla, page 28, 2009). Historic literary and material sources evidence shows an entire technology developing from traditional Mayan recipes of preparing and processing chocolate. Images of the Mesoamericans preparing the drinks can be seen today in their thriving societies as in the historical depictions of 15 surviving documents of Dresden Codex pre-colonial documents and the ambiguous Popol Vuh, colonial documents (C. Martin, “ Mesoamerica and the “ food of the gods”). The preponderance of social power that steered the increased popularity of chocolate were driven by chocolate’s ability to touch hearts, penetrate feelings, and create taste.

Chokoversum_MelangeurChokoversum Melangeur (An-d. Nov, 2013).

Chocolademachine_Mol_D'ArtModern Chocolate Machine (Right: Oriel. Chocolate Machine, n.d.)

Knowing the key factors, trends, ideas, and technologies contributed to the rise of chocolate’s popularity over time enable us to draw the future. The social power of chocolate is galvanized to serve the powerful managerial chocolate corporations today. What is needed is a balancing approach that enables the corporations to get galvanized behind the social power of chocolate. This is especially important to achieve in Ghana and the Ivory Coast where 72% of the worlds Cocoa production is produced, often under dire circumstances (C, Martin Lecture One). Going back into these historic changes can guide us to successfully adopt changes in the future inclusive of all its stakeholders and shareholders.

This Video is mixing some historic facts, some of which were mentioned in the blog, and interestingly reasoning them with fun facts in trying to explain the ever rising popularity of chocolate.

(Talltanic Surprising facts about Chocolate video from January 16th, 2018). (Talltanic, 2018)


References-Works Cited
An-d. Chokoversum Melangeur. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 22 November 2013, 18:22:53

André Karwath aka. Chocolate. This image shows a stack of chocolate, including milk chocolate, nut chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate. Wikimedia Commons. Web.13 February 2005. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate.jpg#mw-jump-to-license
Anonymous. Mujer vertiendo chocolate – Codex Tudela. Español: Mujer azteca espumando cacao, reproducción perteneciente al folio 3-r del Códice Tudela. Source/Photographer: http://www.danielhschreiber.com/i/03-21-10/codex-tudela.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. Web. circa 1553. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela.jpg#mw-jump-to-license
Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. Third Edition. Thames & Hudson Ltd: London, 2013. Print.
Martin, Carla D. 2012. “Brownies: The History of a Classic American Dessert.” Retrieved from http://www.ushistoryscene.com/uncategorized/brownies/
Martin, Carla D. “Introduction.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 24 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 31 Jan.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Chocolate Expansion.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 07 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition and Forced Labor.’”. Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University: Cambridge, MA. 28 Feb.2018. Class Lecture.
Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power, The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Viking Penguin Inc. Penguin Books: New York, 1985. Print.
Oriel. Chocolademachine Mol D’Art. Chocolate machine. Wikimedia Commons. Web. N.D.
Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, 2009. Print.
Talltanic. (Jan 16, 2018). Surprising facts about chocolate. 2018. Taltanic. (Video file). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cI_WIcpcvDA
Unknown Artist. English: White’s Chocolate House, London. Wikimedia Commons. coloured lithograph published by Cadbury. Note: Not a contemporary 1708 illustration (late 19th-century at earliest) Web. circa 1708. https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jpg
Unknown. Photograph of a Maya vase. Wikimedia Commons. Art from late Classic c. 600 – 900 AD, per book “The Blood of Kings, Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Art” by Linda Schele, Mary Ellen Miller, Justin Kerr, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1986, plate 115 Mechanical reproduction of art more than 1,000 years old. Web. Between circa 600 and circa 900 AD https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Maya_vase.jpg#mw-jump-to-license



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