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Chocolate, Religion and Hierarchy: Chocolate’s Religious Symbolism in Pre-Columbian Mayan Culture and its Evolution under Colonialism

The widespread availability of chocolate today hardly hints any relation to hierarchical systems. The mass production of it as a confection and how it readily available for consumption at different quality levels reveals little about its rich history. Long before the European settlement in the Americas, chocolate, or rather the fruit it is borne from, symbolized wealth, and social and religious status in Mesoamerica societies. Here, I will briefly discuss how its hierarchical symbolism with respect to religion evolved in Mayan societies before and during colonialism.

The hierarchical symbolism of chocolate in Mayan culture can be traced through an ethnographical study of Mayan celebratory rituals. In his essay “The Language of Chocolate”, David Stuarts writes about how such ethnographical studies from Central Mexico reveal that chocolate was enjoyed by the elites (Stuart 184). Feasting rites among the elite, in particular, in Mayan Yucatan were heavily documented in chocolate vessels, which describe chocolate’s involvement in extravagant gift-giving formalities in its cacao bean form (Reents-Budet 207). This was viewed as a method for forging sociopolitical alliances among the elite (Reents-Budet 209). In its drink form, cacao was consumed during “ceremonies to seal important social contracts and confirm the legitimacy of dynasties” (Martin et al. 39). Moreover, the use of cacao beverages did not only exist in worldly rituals. Mayan glyphs and art show that the Gods also used cacao beverages to honor guests in divine rituals such as seen in figure 1. Thus, it is apparent that the use of cacao in Mayan rituals reflects how chocolate itself was a symbol of extravagance and hierarchy. 

Figure 1: Mayan God L with Hero Twins, servant behind the God pouring a chocolate beverage.

However, cacao beans and chocolate also possessed religious symbolism that contributed to their hierarchical symbolism. Evidence from Mayan vessels reveal in their hieroglyphs that the Maize God is often embodied as a cacao tree (McNeil 155). Gods in the Mayan tradition are portrayed as trees to show a celestial cycle of death. The roots are in the underworld, the trunk in the middle world and the branches in the heavens. The Maize God is highly regarded in that maize is a staple Mayan crop, thus the association between the Maize God and the cacao tree shows a highly esteemed religious connection and divinity that is possessed by cacao. Beyond representation in religious glyphs, the religious symbolism of cacao can be extended to the notion of “court dwarfs” in Mayan culture. Christian Prager writes that dwarf figurines were placed in Mayan courts to symbolize social power and religious authority (Prager 279). This is rooted in the pre-Mayan Olmec belief that four dwarfs were tasked with propping up heaven. Moreover, dwarfs were seen as companions of the Sun and Maize Gods, thus further solidifying their divine symbolism. Hence, these dwarfs were placed in Mayan courts to further this symbolism. However, it is important to note that these dwarfs would sometimes be sculpted as carrying cacao pods, as seen in figure 2. This further displays that cacao possessed divine value and reflected a type of religious symbolism so that it can be manifested in Mayan society as a hierarchical instrument. 

Figure 2: A Mayan figurine of court dwarf bearing a cacao pod.

This religious symbolism of cacao did not end with colonialism but only transformed under it. The initial European interaction with cacao upon their settlement in Mesoamerica was through the introduction of the cacao bean as a form of currency (Martin et al. 40). However, with the spread of Catholicism by the European settlers in Mayan territory, specifically Mexico, cacao beans soon crossed over into the realm of religiosity. The conversion of indigenous Mexicans led them to create offerings to Jesus. These offerings were often in the form of cacao beans, as was done to indigenous God (Aguilar-Moreno 276). A prominent example is the statue of “Christ of the Cacao” in Mexico City as shown in figure 3. While these offerings were not consumed by Christ, but by the priests of the cathedral, they were converted into wealth, such as in the case of seventeenth century friar in Mexico and Guatemala Thomas Gage (Aguilar-Moreno 276). Here, we see that the symbolism of cacao is multifaceted: it showed a relationship to Jesus and also remained a symbol for wealth. 

Figure 3: Christ of the Cacao: A 16th century colonial Mexican sculpture in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City.

However, does the link between colonial Catholicism and symbolism in cacao extend beyond the borders of the colony? In 1577, Dominican friar in Chiapas did write to the Pope asking for some guidance as to whether chocolate could be appropriately consumed on days when oen is fasting. The Pope never offered a written reply but it is told that he simply laughed with his cardinals. The link to Catholicism in Europe extended beyond this lone interaction, the status of chocolate has long been debated by Catholic scholars in the 1620s and 1630s, with reservations appearing on how to incorporate this seemingly pagan product into the Catholic Church. While here there is a recognition of religious value, it is hard to determine whether or not this religious value was accepted by the Catholic Church in Europe. Nevertheless, the role of chocolate and cacao as a status symbol did cross over into the European continent: it is told that Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were prescribed chocolate by their physician to consume daily during breakfast, seemingly due to chocolate’s energizing benefits. The heavy royal consumption of chocolate and its high regard within the royal court deemed it a luxury item, showing that it did remain a status symbol beyond the Mesoamerican realm. 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that beyond colonialism, Mesoamerican cultures still regarded chocolate highly. Their reverence of cacao beans and their products shifted and adapted to the colonial influences that were introduced into their territory. While it failed to have the same religious symbolism in Europe, chocolate did enter the continent as an item symbolizing social hierarchy. Thus, one can say that the evolution of chocolate as a religious symbol remained within Mesoamerica but its hierarchical symbolism was able to cross the Atlantic into the European continent. 

Bibliography

  1. “Dwarf Figurine.” Wikimedia Commons, Baltimore, MD, 25 Mar. 2012, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mayan_-_Dwarf_Figurine_-_Walters_20092036_-_Three_Quarter_Right.jpg.
  2. “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” Substance and Seduction: Ingested Commodities in Early Modern Mesoamerica, by Stacey Schwartzkopf and Kathryn E. Sampeck, University of Texas Press, 2017, pp. 72-95.
  3. Anagoria. “ El Señor Del Cacao.” Wikimedia Commons, Mexico City, 22 Dec. 2013, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2013-12-22_El_Señor_del_cacao_anagoria.JPG.
  4. Lacambalam. “Tonsured Maize God and Spotted Hero Twin.” Wikimedia Commons, 25 Sept. 2014, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hero_Twins.JPG.
  5. Manuel, Aguilar-moreno. “The Good and Evil of Chocolate in Colonial Mexico.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 13.
  6. Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2015, pp. 37-60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.
  7. Martin, Simon. “Cacao in Ancient Maya Religion: First Fruit from the Maize Tree and Other Tales from the Underworld.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 8.
  8. Prager, Christian. “Court Dwarfs – The Companions of Rulers and Envoys of the Underworld.” Maya: Divine Kings of the Rain Forest, by Nikolai Grube, Konemann, 2001, pp. 278–279.
  9. Reents-Budet, Dorie. “The Social Context of Kakaw Drinking Among of the Ancient Maya.” Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 10.
  10. Robicsek, Francis. “God L with the Hero Twins.” Wikimedia Commons, Princeton, NJ, 31 Oct. 2009, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:God_L_with_the_Hero_Twins.jpg.
  11. Stuart, David. “The Language of Chocolate: References to Cacao on Classic Maya Drinking Vessels.”Chocolate in Mesoamerica, University Press of Florida, 2009, pp. Chocolate in Mesoamerica, Chapter 9.

The Elite World of Chocolate: Cultural Significance in Early Europe

Across time and space, from the Aztec Empire to Baroque Europe, chocolate has been associated with upper class culture. While chocolate was first introduced to Europe in the sixteenth century as a medicine with strong curative powers, it evolved into an elite drink during the grandiose Baroque Age. Chocolate was popularized throughout Europe and came to occupy a distinctive place within upper class society because of the complex material and social culture that the aristocracy and nobility created around it.

“It was during the Baroque Age that the beverage [chocolate] made its major journeys, and it was in the Baroque palaces and mansions of the wealthy and powerful that it was elaborated and consumed.” – The True History of Chocolate (Coe and Coe 125)

Europeans crafted specialized objects to enhance the quality and presentation of chocolate. By creating intricate paraphernalia and drinking processes, they elevated the consumption of chocolate to elite ritual ceremony. The development of objects including chocolate pots, cups, and saucers for the preparation and serving of chocolate in Baroque Europe indicate the extent to which the consumption of chocolate was a show of extravagance. The Spanish, Italians, and French developed their own varieties of specialty chocolate-pots in copper, gold, and silver, such as the one in the image below, (Coe and Coe 156) for the stirring, frothing, and serving of chocolate.

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Chocolatiére (1774), made of silver and amarath wood

Particularly in France, these chocolatières were prized by the nobility, and the Dauphin Louis XIV himself received chocolatières as gifts from foreign guests, such as the King Narai of Siam in 1686. A body of literature surrounding the correct usage of chocolatières and other objects involved in the chocolate consumption process emerged, and the French debated chocolatière design in cookbooks and culinary treatises. For example, an issue of contention was whether there should be a hole in the chocolatière lid, to allow for the passing of the handle of the moulinet, used to stir the liquid chocolate, or if the lid should not be pierced, as with a caffetière, to avoid the “cumbersome” opening and closing of the pot with a moulinet passing through it (Grivetti and Shapiro 91).

With an elaborate material culture surrounding it, chocolate emerged as a fundamental element of royal and high society across countries including Italy, France, England, and Spain. Chocolate was served at public functions and levees at royal courts across Europe, such as Versailles (Coe and Coe 156).

Social gatherings offered individuals the opportunity to display their collection of objects relating to chocolate as well as their innovative methods of chocolate preparation. Esteemed recipes came to be associated with particular places, such as Francesco Redi’s jasmine chocolate at the Tuscan Court (Coe and Coe 143). These recipes were time-consuming and complex, requiring ingredients unavailable to most individuals. Redi’s chocolate, for example, required ten days to prepare and 250 jasmine flowers per kilogram of cocoa nibs a day for each of these ten days.

 

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The Family of the Duke of Penthievre or The Cup of Chocolate (1768) shows a noble family drinking chocolate in a salon, illustrating the type of individuals who consumed chocolate in Baroque Europe.

The upper bourgeoisie class also consumed chocolate in increasing amounts. In England, chocolate was served in traditional coffee-houses, which functioned as important social institutions within English society, by the mid seventeenth century (Coe and Coe, 167).

Chocolate consumption flourished in Baroque Europe because of the extensive material and social culture that developed around it. The luxury item grew in popularity not simply because of its taste or perceived medicinal qualities, but because it offered the European upper class an opportunity to construct a set of customs and social practices around its consumption. Indeed, chocolate became a symbol of wealth, and a vehicle by which one could exhibit his or her privilege. Chocolate was expensive to begin with, and the construction of an extravagant world around chocolate made it even more inaccessible to the lower classes.

 

Ultimately, mass production technologies transformed chocolate from an elite privilege into a European staple food. However, even today, chocolate remains linked to notions of opulence and luxury.

 

Works Cited

Charpentier, Jean Baptiste. The Penthievre Family or The Cup of Chocolate, 1768. Digital image. PBS Learning Media. Web.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Grivetti, Louis, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.

Van Cauwenbergh, Joseph-Théodore. Chocolate Pot. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons. Mar. 2012. Web.

A Royal Indulgence: The Elite Origins and Introductions of Chocolate

Hundreds of years before Cadbury, Hershey and the like transformed chocolate into a mass-produced and affordable dietary staple, chocolate was a royal indulgence. Reserved for the most prestigious social classes in Mesoamerica, sumptuary laws in New World governed who was able to consume it and, according to some accounts, consumption of chocolate without sanction by commoners was punishable by death (Presilla, 18). The value and reverence the Aztecs had for chocolate made a strong impression on early travelers, who readily shared the frothed-beverage with their commissioners in the Old World, making the ruling elite of the 16th century among the first Europeans to regularly imbibe.

Elite Origins in Mesoamerica

Chemical analysis has allowed researchers to place chocolate over 38 centuries back, although not much is known about the drinking habits of early cultures such as the Olmecs and Mayans (Coe, location 464-578). The only surviving written evidence for classic Mayan use of cacao has been found on elegantly painted and carved cylindrical vases and vessels in the tombs and graves of the elite (Coe, location 578). Some of these excavated vases are externally marked with Mayan hieroglyphs denoting cacao, and internally bear chemical traces of alkaloids found in cacao and dark rims on the interior that suggest the contents were once liquid (Coe, location 625). There is not enough evidence to concretely conclude that chocolate was chiefly drunken by the ruling class, but the inclusion of chocolate provisions for the afterlife of the elite suggests Mayans placed a high level importance on the drink.

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A Mayan lord sits raised above a servant on a platform next to a frothing pot of chocolate, forbidding the servant from touching the container. (Mayan Civilisation)

Much more is known of the chocolate consumption habits of the Aztecs than the Mayans. Aztec emperor Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina (c. 1398-1469 AD) issued a series of laws stating that “he who does not go to war, be he son of a king, may not wear cotton, feathers or flowers, nor may he smoke, or drink cacao” (Coe, location 1372). Only members of the royal house, the lords and nobility, long-distance merchants who endured dangerous lands and battles with foreign groups, and warriors were allowed to drink chocolate in Aztec society (Coe, location 1324). In Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, Sahagún describes how stringently this hierarchical framework for chocolate consumption was followed by the Aztecs; cacao was very valuable and rare, and was proverbially referred to as “Yollotli eztli”, or the “price of blood and of heart”, because if people of the working class drank it without permit, it would cost them their life (“si alguno de los populares lo bebía, costábale la vide si sin licencia lo bebían”) (Moreno, 500).

Chocolate’s link to luxury and power in Aztec culture is further enforced with the cacao bean’s role in the economy. The Aztecs used cacao beans as currency: a rabbit cost about ten beans (Coe, location 832). When the elite drank chocolate, they were quite literally drinking money. This did not go unacknowledged by the Europeans, who quickly realized that cacao was as valuable to this group of people as gold and gems (Presilla, 18). Watch this video to learn a little more about cacao beans in Aztec culture and the introduction of chocolate to Europeans (Youtube).

Royal Introductions in Europe

In 1544, chocolate made its first documented European appearance in Spain. Dominican friars brought Mayan nobles to the courts of Prince Philip, who presented some of the wonders of the New World to the king: quetzal feathers, painted gourds, and containers of beaten chocolate (Presilla, 24). Forty years later in 1585, the first official cacao bean shipment reached Seville from Veracruz (Coe, location 1848).

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A Spanish mancerina with a metal tray. Mancerinas were also made with porcelain trays to match the cup. (Tamorlan)

The Spanish altered the chocolate recipe slightly – preferring it hot as opposed to cold, as the Aztecs had taken it. The Aztecs would add ingredients they were familiar with such as vanilla, herbs, flower petals, and honey, and the Spanish did the same with sugar, cinnamon, hazelnut, anise, and almonds (Presilla). The Spanish sipped it out of mancerinas, a plate or saucer with a ring in the middle to hold a small cup and prevent it from slipping, rather than jícaras. One thing that didn’t change, however, was the elite ties of chocolate; making and drinking chocolate “involved special pains and paraphernalia” (Presilla, 25).

During the 17th century, chocolate spread throughout Europe. It was highly valued as an exotic, tasty alternative as well as a health-promoting drug and was treated differently than other foods. During the reign of Charles III of Spain, chocolate was sent directly to the “royal keeper of jewels” rather than the kitchen (Presilla, 32). France mimicked Spain’s royal consumption of chocolate, reserving it strictly for the aristocracy while England allowed it to hit the free market (Coe, location 2412). Any Englishman or woman was able to consume it so long as they had enough money to pay for it.

800px-Raimundo_Madrazo_-_Hot_Chocolate
A woman drinks chocolate. Notice her elegant clothing and the chocolate paraphernalia on the tray next to her. (Raimundo)

Sources

Castriocto, Alessandro. “File:João V – Duque de Lafões.Jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. 1720. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Kindle edition.

Mayan civilisation. “File:Mayan People and Chocolate.Jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Moreno, Wigberto Jiménez and Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia general de las cosas de Nueva España: Libros I, II, III, y IV. Linkgua digital, 1938. Online.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2001. Print.

Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta. “File:Raimundo Madrazo – Hot Chocolate.jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Salvor. “File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jph – Wikimedia Commons”. 2006. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Tamorlan. “File:Macerina-Barcelona-03.Jpg – Wikimedia Commons”. 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

YouTube. “This Is México – Cacao”. Royal Channel Cancun, 2009. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

The Role of Cacao in Aztec Customs

Introduction to Aztecs

The Aztecs were the people of the fifth sun who lived in Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) and spoke the Nahuatl language. From the 14th-16th centuries they dominated much of Mesoamerica, however, history remembers them as cruel, volatile and sadistic people. This stereotype arose because it benefited the Spaniards to paint the Aztec people in a bad light. The quote, “history is written by the victors” illuminates this point. What we study and remember about historical events comes from the eye of those who are able to live and tell the story. The fact of the matter is that we will never know everything about the Aztec culture but one thing we know for sure is that the cacao bean was incredibly significant in their everyday lives.

 

Making of Chocolate

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Figure 1. This image shows the care and time it takes to make the chocolate drink. In this picture the women is moving the chocolate from one basin to another in order to create a layer of foam.

When we think of chocolate today we think of a sweet, brown block of food that is enjoyed as a desert or a sugary snack. This chocolate is derived from the theobroma cacao bean. The Aztecs used these theobroma cacao beans in a very different way. A man known as the Anonymous Conqueror, a gentleman of Hernan Cortez, described the way chocolate was prepared in Tenochtitlan. The seeds of cacao were ground and made into a powder that was put into basins and mixed with water. After mixing for an extended period of time they change it from one basin to another in order to create a layer of foam. When completed, the delicacy is to be served cold as a drink. (Coe and Coe, 87) “The conqueror describes this drink as the healthiest thing and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”(Coe and Coe, 87) Chocolate in the Aztec culture was not a sweet drink for everyone to enjoy; it had an intense bitter taste and was reserved for the Aztec elite.

 

 

Chocolate Drinking, A Royal Pleasure

The drinking of chocolate was primarily for the Royal house, the lords and nobility. The only commoners who had the privilege of drinking chocolate were the soldiers as it was thought to rejuvenate warriors before they entered battle. Chocolate was a delicacy that was not available to everyone in the Aztec culture. The drinking of chocolate was also a civil and ritualized process. According to Fray Bartolome de las Casas, who was one of the first Dominicans in the Americas, royalty drank chocolate out of calabash cups called xicalli in Nahuatl that were painted inside and out. Chocolate was also never drank during the meals rather it was sipped after the meal was over. “It was an ambrosia from the rich and exotic lands of Anahuac, not something to wash down one’s food.”(Coe and Coe, 94)

 

 

Role of Chocolate as Currency

The other interesting aspect of cacao that signified its importance in the Aztec culture was how it was used as a form of currency. According to the Codice Mendoza, cacao beans had taken on the status of legal money. “The cacao beans of Soconusco were particularly valued as records indicate an annual tribute of 200 hundred loads of 24,00 beans each to the capital.” (Presilla, 17) Another historical record of the importance of cacao was from Christopher Colombus’ son Ferdinand who recounted in a letter; “they dropped some nuts and immediately stooped to rescue any that dropped as if an eye had fallen from their heads” (Presilla, 17). Ferdinand was referring to the cacao beans when he said ‘nuts’ but the reaction of the Aztec people shows the importance of these beans and is testimony that they may have carried monetary value in addition to their intrinsic value.

 

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Figure 2: The exchange of cacao beans between gods. Cacao was used in many ways and was also used as a form of currency.

 

Chocolate in Aztec Rituals

 

 

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Figure 3. This image is a depiction of the heart extraction ritual that was performed once every year by the Aztec people. The use of chocolate in this ritual signifies its importance in the Aztec culture.

Chocolate was engrained in the culture and rituals of the Aztec people. When members of Aztec royalty and nobility hosted guests they would often invite them to partake in the drinking of chocolate. This gesture was meant as a great honor to the guest who received the chocolate. (Presilla, 19) Another specialized ritual that occurred every year among the Aztecs was the sacred heart extraction in Tenochtitlan. One slave would be chosen to dress up and impersonate the great god Quetzalcoatl for 40 days. When the 40 days came to an end the slave would be required to sacrifice himself to the gods. Throughout the process the slave had to act and dance joyously as if he was lucky to be honored as the one chosen to sacrifice himself to the gods. It is said that if the individual became melancholy he would be given a gourd of chocolate to drink. The slave would immediately forget the situation he was in and would return to his usual cheerfulness. (Coe and Coe, 102) The use of chocolate in these types of rituals shows how highly the Aztecs viewed chocolate and how important it was in their culture.

 

 

  

Conclusion

It is clear that the Aztec people viewed cacao as more than just a food or drink. Cacao was reserved for the elite of Aztec society and carried cultural and monetary significance that made it so important and so valuable to the Aztec people.

 

 

Works Cited:

  1. Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed, 2009. Print.
  2. Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Chocolate & Luxury

Cacao beans, and the products that descend from them, were all highly valued in the early societies of Mesoamerica.  The beans were considered so precious that even Ferdinand Columbus, viewing with his foreign eyes how reverently they were treated, was able to understand their importance on some level.  He explained in a written account that cacao beans, which he referred to as “almonds,” were so valuable to the Maya people he was observing that “when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen” (Coe & Coe 109).

A person holding cacao beans, which were precious to Maya and Aztec peoples as both a currency and as the source of chocolate

The diligence he observed in the Maya people’s behavior was likely due in large part to their use of cacao beans as currency – though just an “almond” with mysterious value to Columbus, the beans had great extrinsic value in Mayan society.  Beyond their implication of wealth when accumulated as currency, cacao beans had an even greater implication of wealth in the luxury and status symbol that was one of their products: chocolate.  “The common folk, the needy did not drink it” (Coe & Coe 101); rather, its consumption was limited to that of the elite classes of both Mayan and Aztec society.  It was a very rare occasion when those outside of the elite minority were able to enjoy chocolate drinks – one such rarity was when “Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death” were given chocolate lightly flavored with blood of preceding victims (“A Brief History of Chocolate”).  Later in Aztec history, chocolate was even referenced as a symbol of luxury in the poetry and songs the royalty and nobility devoted themselves to creating (Coe & Coe 104).

Chocolate was also a luxury item when first introduced to Europe.  Initially, the good was available only to Europe’s upper classes, prompting the creation of luxury items like the Spanish mancerina and the French chocolatiere to facilitate the consumption of the nobility.  The mancerina was used to prevent spillage of chocolate drink at royal and noble parties, where it was often consumed, and the chocolatiere, typically made from precious materials like silver, facilitated the process of making chocolate beverages with its frothing mechanism.  Chocolate was often served at public functions of Louis XIV at Versailles (Coe & Coe 156), considered by history to be one of the most extravagant rulers of European history living in one of the most extravagant of places to exist even to this day.

Over time, the extravagance and luxury that chocolate and other products of the cacao plant represented faded into a commonplace tradition of the masses.  Cheaper than tea after the advent of mass production of chocolate, hot chocolate was often served alongside coffee in places like England.

An English coffeehouse where chocolate drinks were likely sold alongside coffee, and where British politicians would chat about the politics of the day

As the two Mesoamerican societies progressed, chocolate and cacao beans became much more accessible to the average Mayan or Aztec, giving rise to the popular tradition of making chocolate drinks like champurrado that have persisted in popularity into modern day Mexican culture.

Though the exclusivity of access once associated with the products of the cacao plant changed, what didn’t was the luxurious feeling of consuming it: from Europe to Mesoamerica, chocolate maintained its classification as a special consumption good.  Embodied first in exclusivity and then later in tradition, the special, luxurious feeling associated with chocolate has yet to fade.

Sources:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 1996. Print.

Benson, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.”Smithsonian Magazine. 1 Mar 2008: n. page. Print. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-chocolate-21860917/?page=1&gt;.