Guatemala is touted as the birthplace of chocolate, with the Mayans worshipping the cacao tree and calling chocolate the “food of the gods.” This ancient civilization also revered chocolate for its aphrodisiac qualities, with Moctezuma apparently consuming absurd amounts of the food to enhance his sexual stamina.
During the Mayan and Aztec periods, chocolate was mainly consumed in drink form in the areas of Xoconochco and Suchitepequez. A metate or mealing stone was used to grind the cacao down into an edible form.
They liked it bitter and spicy, adding chillies and cornmeal to the fermented cacao pulp mixture and drinking up for health and vitality.
Even modern studies have shown cacao’s ability to reduce blood pressure, boost energy, act as a diuretic, and treat certain ailments like asthma, respiratory issues, so it shouldn’t be too surprising this ingredient has long been cherished.
When the Aztecs took over the Mayans, they too realized the value of cacao, using it for trade and as a form of currency. Because they couldn’t grow it in the hot, dry lands of Mexico, they often transported it 900 miles (1,448 kilometres) on their backs.
The cacao was so precious, enjoying chocolate was reserved for the wealthy and important Aztecs.
Archaeological evidence also proves ancient cultures revered cacao. For example, there have been found vessels filled with cacao remains, Mayan vases with cacao image etchings, paintings depicting the Mayans consuming cacao, and statues of gods holding cacao seeds from Mayan and Aztec times.
In fact, many researchers believe the Mayans actually had a specific cacao god or goddess named Ek Chuah, and the seeds are thought to have been used for ceremonies like marriages and royal occasions as well as human sacrifices.