All posts by aliciazhuaz

Chocolate and Health in Harvard’s Dining Halls

Once considered a “food of the Gods” by Aztec and Mayan cultures, chocolate today is an affordable indulgence that appears in almost every establishment where food is served. Harvard’s dining halls are certainly no exception. Through an analysis of the chocolate food selection at Adams Dining Hall on May 16, 2014, it became clear that chocolate has truly grown from a food enjoyed only by elites, to one that has become ubiquitous in the American diet. However, the available  chocolate options were all very high in caloric value and were highly processed, which is a testament to how the buffet-style setup and unhealthy options available in campus dining halls can easily contribute to weight gain in college.

Harvard University Dining Services is responsible for preparing the meals for the College’s more than 6000 students. Given this large undertaking, dining halls are more focused on efficiency and low costs rather than providing haute cuisine. I personally eat all three meals in Adams Dining Hall almost everyday, as it is extremely convenient to be able to eat without stepping foot outside. For every lunch and dinner served, there are always a variety of chocolate options on the menu, available in both liquid and solid forms. On this particular evening, fudge brownies were the main dessert entree. These brownies are one of my favorite treats that HUDS makes. Upon further inspection of the posted ingredients, however, it is noted that these brownies are not particularly healthy, as sugar, trans free margarine, chocolate liquor, and chocolate chips are named as a few of the ingredients.

Fudge brownies were the main dessert entree on May 16.
Fudge brownies were the main dessert entree on May 16.

In addition to the fudge brownies, two other chocolate-flavored entrees were cookies and cream ice cream and chocolate pudding. While these two options are milk-based and lower in fat than the brownies, they are still certainly full of processed sugars. As noted in class lecture, added sugars consumed per capita have increased from 120 pounds in 1980 to 132 pounds in 2010, and the percentage of US adults who are obese was up to a whopping 35.7% in 2010. It is also noted that the pudding and cookies and cream frozen yogurt did their ingredients posted beside their labels, which can contribute to overconsumption if students are not aware of their high caloric content.

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Cookies and cream frozen yogurt and chocolate pudding were among the chocolate-flavored selections in Harvard's Dining Halls.
Cookies and cream frozen yogurt and chocolate pudding were among the chocolate-flavored selections in Harvard’s Dining Halls.

The readily available abundance of food in dining facilities can be a major cause of weight gain. The buffet-style, all-you-can-eat food service can influence poor dietary habits and encourage frequent overconsumption. While there are a large number of healthy choices in the buffet-style dining halls, including a salad bar and grilled chicken, there are also a high number of unhealthful choices such as brownies that can be eaten in large portions. Although many universities have long employed buffet-style student dining systems because of their reduced labor requirements for service, the savings incurred may ultimately be at the expense of students’ health.

Thus, while chocolate is a delicious treat, it should certainly be enjoyed in moderation in order to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid the conditions associated with unhealthy eating habits, such as obesity and diabetes. While it is helpful that HUDS includes ingredients on some of its food labels, it would be even more effective to include full nutritional information, including calories, in order to help students make healthy decisions. Must and colleagues reported that 75% of a group of university students agreed or strongly agreed that knowing the nutrient content of food is important for a healthful diet and nutritional well-being. Overall, this class has certainly made me more aware of noticing what exactly goes into my food rather than simply its flavor. In analyzing chocolate selections and food selections in general, it is important to take into account nutritional value, ingredients, and the values that went into creating the food that we eat.

Works Cited

A. Must, J. Spadano, E.H. Coakley, A.E. Field, G. Colditz, W.H. Dietz. The disease burden associated with overweight and obesity JAMA, 282 (1999), pp. 1523–1529.

Specialty versus Convenience: An Analysis of Chocolate Experiences in Harvard Square

Harvard Square is a historical cultural and commercial center, serving as home to more than 90 restaurants and a variety of shops. Among these shops are two staples that are located only within a few hundred feet of each other: Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe and CVS. Cardullo’s advertises itself as a specialty food store featuring the Square’s oldest delicatessen and “gourmet delicacies from around the world,” whereas CVS is a popular pharmacy chain that sells a variety of general merchandise including beauty products and convenience foods. In examining the chocolate selections at both, it became clear that while the products offered were similar, each store was trying to create an immensely different experience for the consumer. Cardullo’s focused on creating one of specialty where the customer was likely to intentionally purchase chocolate, whereas CVS was focused creating an experience of convenience where chocolate was more likely to be purchased on impulse. At the same time, both locations sold chocolate brands that were for the most part mass-produced, which speaks to the pervasiveness of “Big Chocolate” in consumer society.

Cardullo’s at 6 Brattle Street in Harvard Square

Cardullo’s prides itself on its history and selection, boasting on its website that since 1950, “gastronomes have delighted in getting lost” in the store’s extensive selection of coffees, wines, specialty gift baskets, and of course, chocolate. This statement certainly rang true for me– as soon as I entered the store, I was overwhelmed by the variety of products offered and spent the next hour scouring the aisles, examining delicious treats that I had never seen before. While I originally thought that most of these “gourmet” products were going to be quite expensive, I found that the majority of the brands were simply just foreign and that prices were quite reasonable (ranging from $5-10 for a bar of chocolate).

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Francois Pralus and Cote D'Or are two foreign brands that are sold in large quantities worldwide.
Francois Pralus and Cote D’Or are two foreign brands that are sold in large quantities worldwide.

I also found the majority of these exotic chocolates seemed to mass-produced. For instance, one of the most expensive chocolate brands I saw in the selection was François Pralus. Across each bar was stamped the phrase “Maitre Chocolatier,” which means Master Chocolatier in French, and these “pure origin bars” included Trinitario chocolate from Venezuela and Criollo chocolate from Madagascar. I immediately assumed from the beautiful packaging and focus on quality that François Pralus was an artisan brand that only distributed its chocolate in small quantities. However, upon further investigation of its website, I found that almost 100 tons of Pralus chocolate are manufactured and sold each year. Another brand that I assumed was a foreign brand of fine chocolate was Cote D’Or, which ended up being owned by Mondelez International, the distributor of Toblerone and Cadbury Dairy Milk in the United States. Additionally, I was intrigued by the fine packaging of neuhaus chocolate, only to find that the brand has over “1000 sales outlets in 50 countries.”

Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate speaks to the issue of chocolate that is marketed to convey an image of gourmet quality but is actually sold in quantities reaching the millions. The authors explain that the problem with “premium chocolate” is that universal standard for the term does not exist. This blurs the line between what is considered premium, which is sold typically sold for upwards of $8 per pound, and what is considered fine chocolate, which is  sold for upwards of $24 per pound. Because “premium chocolate is whatever someone says it is,” the term ends up speaking not to the price point but rather a premium experience driven by packaging, consumer perception, and retail positioning.

chuao chocolate, available in "firecracker" and "potato chip," was one of the only artisan brands that I found.
chuao chocolate, available in “firecracker” and “potato chip,” was one of the only artisan brands that I found.

Given that the majority of its chocolate selection is comprised of bulk chocolate, Cardullo’s aims to create a “specialty” experience rather than a “fine” chocolate experience such as that of Formaggio’s. For instance, Cardullo’s carried not the Cadbury Dairy Milk found in supermarket chains across America, but rather a “specialized” version that is carried in the United Kingdom. Additionally, it carried Nestle Yorkie Bars, which are mass-produced chocolate, but primarily only sold in the UK. Even the one truly “artisan” brand I found, chuao chocolate, sold highly unusual flavors such as firecracker, popcorn, and potato chip. Thus, Cardullo’s aims to carry a specialty assortment of chocolate that is not necessarily expensive, but rather difficult to find or interesting in flavor. Those who happen to wander into Cardullo’s are committing to a pleasurable purchasing experience where they are exposed to a wide variety of foreign chocolates and must make an active, intentional decision to purchase this chocolate.

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CVS at 1426 Massachusetts Ave in Harvard Square

While customers who enter Cardullo’s intentionally step into an immersive experience browsing specialty chocolates, customers shopping in CVS may not be as intent on buying only chocolate. As Lawrence Allen explains in his novel Chocolate Fortunes, approximately 70 percent of chocolate is purchased by consumers on impulse. Thus, the majority of consumers walking into CVS are not entering specifically to buy chocolate – rather, they may be looking for a toothbrush and happen to pick up a bar of chocolate on the way out. Instead of selling an experience of specialty, CVS is selling one of convenience as a one-stop shop for a person’s basic needs. As Allen goes on to explain, industry studies have shown that only 22% of shoppers who enter a supermarket ever walk down the chocolate aisle. Because of this, chocolate companies make enormous efforts to get their products placed throughout the store, especially at the ends of retail shelves facing main traffic aisles.

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A large proportion of the premium chocolates at CVS were on special sale.

A perfect example of these two concepts of convenience and impulse can be found from an analysis of CVS’s “premium chocolate” selection. These “premium chocolates” were not placed in the regular chocolate aisle, but rather strategically at the end of the soda aisle so that people who were buying soda would be inclined to throw a pack into their baskets. The emphasis on convenience and affordability is evidenced by the fact that even the “high-end” chocolates at CVS were marked very clearly with bright yellow signs to signify that there was a special deal going on. Lindt chocolates were all marked down to 2 for $5.00, indicating that this deal was a steal to passersby to pick up two, four, or six packs. These premium chocolates were similar to the bulk premium chocolates found in Cardullo’s, as Godiva and Lindt are very well-known and regarded brands in the United States. As explained in Chocolate Science and Technology, these mass premium products are priced to attract customers as an affordable luxury for those wanting a reward without the need for a special occasion. The Lindt chocolates are meant to be fancy without being too fancy, and elegant but reasonably priced in order to entice customers to pick up a package on impulse. They would be drawn in by these flashy sale signs and the convenient placement along the end of the aisle, and ultimately make a purchase.

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The enormous chocolate selection at CVS

The Hershey Factory is the largest chocolate factory in the world, and through mass mechanization makes treats that are available in convenience stores such as CVS.

Aside from this special premium chocolate selection, the assortment available in the regular chocolate aisle was what would be expected of a CVS, with all the “Big Chocolate” players – including Hershey, Nestle, and Mars – asserting their dominant presence. Once again, yellow stickers indicating special deals were tacked all along the shelves, and prices were astoundingly low while the variety of products offered was astoundingly high. This speaks to the power of multinational corporations and their ability to produce and distribute millions of pounds of chocolate. As detailed in Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World, this ability is mainly due to improvements in mechanization and transport of food in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s. Coupled with this technical revolution of mass-producing food was the increased volume of trade in tea and sugar, which eventually led to the explosion of grocer retailers as the providers of the convenience food that we have today. As a result, a bulk retailer like CVS focuses more on providing affordability and convenience to its customers over everything else.

Chocolate should not be interpreted as simply just a caloric substance that humans choose to digest – rather, the process of purchase tells a story behind the intentions of the retailer selling the product. In this case, it became clear that Cardullo’s and CVS intended to create different experiences for the consumer of specialty versus convenience. However, it is also important to recognize that none of these experiences exist as polarities or are mutually exclusive. This is evidenced by the fact that in both stores, there were a range of products offered, in which artisan and bulk chocolates, and “premium” and discounted chocolates were sold side by side. Thus, analyzing the chocolate selections at different stores speaks volumes to the consumer experience, and, thanks to this course, is something I will pay particular attention to from now on.

Works Cited

 Afoakwa, Emmanuel Ohene. 2010. “Chocolate Science and Technology.” pp. 13-20.

Allen, Lawrence. 2010. Chocolate Fortunes: the Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. pp. 1-39, 201-224

Goody, Jack. 2013[1982]. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine.” pp. 72-88

Williams, Pam and Jim Beer. 2012. Raising the Bar: The Future of Fine Chocolate. pp. 141-209

Yorkie: A Chocolate Bar for Everyone


In 2002, Nestle launched a new advertising campaign for the Yorkie bar, based on the argument that in a current world of increasing female dominance, men didn’t have much that they could “claim as their own” (Badenoch, 2009).

When I initially saw the logo for Nestle’s Yorkie bar (pictured above), I thought it was a joke. While I have seen my fair share of sexist advertising, it seemed unfathomable to me that a chocolate bar whose wrapper had “NOT FOR GIRLS” printed across it was even available on the market. As I did more research, I saw that this packaging was no joke, but rather part of a £3m advertising campaign launched in 2002 that aimed to “reclaim chocolate for men” (Smith and Taylor, 2004). The marketing director of Nestle at the time, Andrew Harrison, said the campaign was planned as a direct response to the “feminine silks and swirls and indulgent images of most confectionery advertising” (Smith and Taylor, 2004).

While it is understandable that Nestle was trying to target male consumers, it is not understandable why these efforts had to be at the expense of women. Additionally, from an economic standpoint it would seem unwise to blatantly exclude 50% of the entire population from a potential market. Thus, Chrissy, Emily, and I aimed to introduce a more inclusive advertisement that puts women back into the equation, not only as a way to combat sexism but also to increase the potential market size of Nestle’s Yorkie Bar.

Our attempt to make a more inclusively-marketed product.
Our attempt to make a more inclusively-marketed product.

In order to explain our logic in creating this new advertisement, it would be useful to first explore the Yorkie bar’s history. As explained on Nestle’s UK website, the Yorkie chocolate bar was launched in 1976 to compete with and to provide a chunkier alternative to the slimmed-down Cadbury Dairy Milk bars. According to its nutritional information, the Yorkie Bar shows is almost double the size of average chocolate bar, weighing in at 70 grams and amounting to a whopping 300 calories. Imagery associated with Yorkie bars in early advertising campaigns featured truck drivers as a response to the female-oriented target market for Cadbury Dairy Milk. While chocolate advertising aimed toward women has typically depicted it as a “sexual indulgence” to satisfy a sensual appetite, Yorkie appealed to men by portraying the product as one that satisfied a physical appetite (Badenoch, 2009).

The television advertisement above shows a woman attempting to purchase a Yorkie, but the only way she can do this is by gluing on a fake beard and dressing up as a builder to fool the large male shopkeeper. 

The logo, then, attempts to represent the hunger-satisfying, masculine qualities of the Yorkie bar. The big, bold, strong font of “NOT FOR GIRLS” is meant to assert the Yorkie’s dominance over the male market by completing excluding females from trying the product. Aside from its explicit slogan, the logo is blatantly directed to appeal to men, as the marketers turned the ‘o’ in Yorkie into a street-sign image of a woman with a red line across it. Furthermore, by explaining that the bar is not available into pink, the advertisement plays on the stereotype that pink is a color that can only be enjoyed by women and not men. This purposely is meant to discourage women from eating Yorkie bars to firmly cement the product as one exclusively consumed by men.

While we understand that British humor varies greatly from American humor, and that these advertisements were meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it is questionable whether we should laud a product that intentionally excludes others. Thus, Chrissy, Emily, and I created an advertisement to send the message that the large size of the Yorkie bar should not prohibit females from consuming it. In our reinvention of the wrapper, we maintain similar elements of the original so that it is seen as a direct response. Thus, we kept the same large, bold block font but replaced the text with “ANYONE CAN WEAR PINK… AND ANYONE CAN ENJOY A YORKIE.” This destroys the notion that pink is traditionally considered to be a color only enjoyed by women and demonstrates that pink is a color that can be worn by all sexes, just as a Yorkie can be enjoyed by all sexes.

Additionally, we changed the bottom slogan to “Yorkie: Available in ALL Colors” in order to once again illustrate an atmosphere of inclusivity. By alternating the standard bold block lettering along with a flowery cursive font, we hoped to demonstrate that masculine and feminine elements could coincide with each other in harmony. To further reinforce this message, we replaced the image of the crossed-out woman with a male and female holding hands, showing that men and women can enjoy Yorkie bars together. It is our hope that this new advertisement serves as a remedy to sexist advertising on both sides: to the original Yorkie campaign that intentionally excludes women, but also to the traditional, flowery advertising of chocolate products that exclude men.

Works Cited

Badenoch, Alexander, Moss, Sarah (2009). Chocolate: A Global History. Reaktion Books, London, UK.

Nestle, UK.

OFlaherty, Kelly (2008). “Brands make a play for women.” Marketing Week Magazine.

Smith, P.R., Taylor, J. (2004). Marketing Communications: An Integrated Approach. Kogan Page Publishers, London, UK.

Chocolate and the Steam Engine

It is no secret that the Industrial Revolution allowed chocolate to become available to the masses. At the dawn of this period, basic technology used to create chocolate had barely changed from that used by the Aztecs, and even factories that produced chocolate did so through a labor-intensive process performed by hand in small quantities (Coe and Coe 226). As a result, its price was prohibitive and chocolate remained a drink only consumed by wealthy and aristocratic Europeans during the 17th and 18th century. Coe and Coe note that “1828 marks the beginning of the modern era in chocolate making and production,” crediting Coenraad Johannes Van Houten’s hydraulic press for allowing the widespread manufacture of affordable chocolate for the masses to be possible (234). This hydraulic press manufactured a cheap powdered cocoa by squeezing out excess cocoa butter and treating it with alkaline salts.

However, I would argue that the democratizing of chocolate actually began fifty years before, in 1775. In that year, James Watt, a Scottish inventor, entered into a partnership with businessman Matthew Boulton, which sparked the successful commercialization of Watt’s steam engine (Scherer 167). While one may not immediately associate steam engines and chocolate with each other, I believe it was indeed the steam engine that served as the catalyst for the spread of chocolate consumption, and its importance surely should not be overlooked. The steam engine was crucial in mechanizing the process of grinding cacao seeds to produce chocolate. Before the steam engine, cacao seeds were ground in mills driven by animal, wind, or water power, and before that they were ground by hand with stones. The power supplied by the steam engine enabled chocolate makers to streamline chocolate production in larger quantities. In 1789, Joseph Storrs Fry purchased a Watt’s steam engine to grind his cacao beans, thus sparking the process in which chocolate became widely affordable (Coe and Coe 227). Thus, it would be safe to say that the steam engine provided the platform in which Van Houten’s breakthrough was able to spark this “modern era” of chocolate proliferation.

A James Watt steam engine just like this one would’ve been used to grind cacao seeds in a timely and efficient manner.

Additionally, it is impossible to talk about the spread of chocolate to the masses without detailing the equally enormous increase in the intake of sugar during the same period, as the majority of these new solid chocolate snacks were in the form of desserts. Once again, the steam engine played a crucial role in the spread of sugar in a similar fashion. The first attempt at applying steam power to sugar production was made by John Stewart in 1768 in Jamaica, and soon after, steam replaced direct firing as the source of sugar heat processing (Richardson 88). By 1810, steam power was heavily present throughout the British and French Caribbean colonies, and the continually advancing steam-powered method of sugarcane milling made steady progress against the older methods throughout the region during the nineteenth century, particularly in the Great Antilles (Richardson 92). Not only did the steam engine remove the need for cattle-driven mills, but it could also crush canes endlessly with perfect reliability, regardless of wind conditions or terrain. This industrialization of sugar processing through steam power contributed to the plummeting in prices of sugar during the 1800’s, which in turn also contributed to the cheapening of chocolate.

Sugar cane mills were used to manufacture sugar for processes varying from squeezing juice out from the cane, boiling and filtering the juice, and further separation and purification techniques to process the final sugar crystal product.

From sugar mills to textile factories, steam engines found many uses in a variety of fields during the Industrial Revolution. The introduction of steam engines improved productivity and technology and they were eventually applied to transportation as well. Steam engines found their way into boats, railways, and road vehicles, driving transportation costs down and contributing to a chain reaction which in turn drove sugar, and therefore chocolate prices down. In 1825, George Stephenson created the first public railway for steam locomotives, which coincided with the other inventions occurring regarding the production process of chocolate and allowed this newfound mass-produced chocolate to be transported on a widespread level as well (Scherer 176).

The design of George Stephenson’s patent locomotive engine, built in 1829, was used in successive locomotive steam engines throughout the 1800’s.

The introduction of the steam engine provides an example of how changes brought by industrialization led to even more changes in other areas. The steam engine was a precursor to many other advanced technologies, including Henri Nestle’s production of powdered milk in 1867 and  Rudolphe Lindt’s “conching” process in 1879 (Coe and Coe 246). Thus, the steam engine served as the catalyst to making all the steps of the production of chocolate, from its initial grinding to its final transportation, easier and cheaper. Today, sales reach over $100 billion a year and  chocolate is considered a snack for the masses. When considering how chocolate achieved such an extensive reach, it is important to consider the integral role that the steam engine played in its expansion.

Coe, Sophie D., Coe, Michael D., 2013. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, London.

Richardson, Bonham (1992). The Caribbean in the Wider World, 1492-1992: A Regional Geography. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Scherer, F.M., (1965). Invention and Innovation in the Watt-Boulton Steam-Engine Venture. Technology and Culture, Vol. 6, No. 2.

An Ale of the Ancients: Chocolate Beer in Mesoamerica

Chocolate + Beer = Food of the Gods

From reading this blog, it’s no secret by now that the ancient people of Mesoamerica loved to drink their chocolate. However, rather than the chocolate milkshakes we have today, their beverage was bitter, frothy, and also apparently alcoholic.

An archaeological finding by scientists studying pottery vessels from the lower Ulúa Valley in northern Honduras suggests that cacao was likely originally prepared as an alcoholic beverage, in the form of a fermented beer made from cacao pulp rather than its seeds. This claim contrasts with the previous assumption detailed by Sophie and Michael D. Coe in which cacao was originally cultivated to produce a beverage in which cacao seeds were fermented, dried, ground, and mixed with water to form a thick mixture.

The scientists, Dr. Henderson and Dr. Joyce of Cornell and UC Berkeley, found many elegant pieces of pottery and concluded that they were used for ceremonial purposes to serve cacao beverages. By using pottery fragments, the researchers were able to detect evidence of cacao in the form of theobromine, a fingerprint compound that occurs in chocolate fruit and beans in Mesoamerica, from residues absorbed by the clay. In particular, vessels of the long-necked jar type tested positive for theobromine as early as 1100 B.C., which is some 500 years earlier than previously documented. Most of the vessels from this early period only had a narrow spout, which would be good for pouring but not for frothing up a beverage mainly comprised of seeds. Wide-mouthed vessels that would be proper for serving seed-based beverages did not appear at the site for several hundred years.

The long-necked vessels also had a shape and were marked with the ridges and indentations that resembled the cacao fruit. Based on this chemical and archaeological evidence, the scientists concluded the jar was once filled with a fermented chocolate beverage made from cacao fruit. These drinks could contain up to 5% alcohol by volume.

This Barraca Brown bottle from northern Honduras (ca. 1400–1100 B.C.) illustrates the long-necked vessels in which the earliest fermented beverages were served.

Additionally, inscriptions on Classic Maya vases include references to k’ab kakaw, or “honey-cacao,” which is described as a possibly fermented cacao juice using honey. Evidence for use of fermented cacao beverages by the Aztecs was recorded in the work of Bernardino de Sahagún, who detailed that “[Green cacao] makes one drunk, takes effect on one, makes one dizzy, confuses one, makes one sick, deranges one. When an ordinary amount is drunk, it gladdens one, refreshes one, consoles one, invigorates one…” This description clearly details the effect of drinking a fermented beverage and the intoxication that followed after it was served to a ruler.

The process of brewing cacao first requires that seeds and pulp are placed in a vessel, often a wooden box, and left to ferment for a period of several days. As the pulp is converted to alcohol, the bitterness of the seeds decreases and the seeds turn to a pale violet color. After, a second stage of fermentation starts in which alcohol is converted to acetic acid. In the final stage, the chocolate flavor of the seeds becomes fully developed and the seeds change to a brown color and shrink drastically. The fermented seeds are then dried and added to a water beverage. In the Aztec culture especially, the performance of this alcoholic cacao preparation was a means of formalized hosting and marked the occasion of drinking as a special event.

Dogfish Head Brewery currently carries Theobroma beer, which contains chocolate powder from the premier area of Aztec chocolate production

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., Coe, Michael D., 2013. The True History of Chocolate. Thames and Hudson, London.

Henderson, John, Joyce, Rosemary, et al., 2007. “Chemical and archaeological evidence for the earliest cacao beverages.” PNAS 104 (48) 18937-18940.

McNeil, Cameron, 2009. Chocolate in Mesoamerica. University Press of Florida.