Cocoa in a nutshell or cocoa pod? Impossible.
But let’s at least look at how it all started off. The chocolate story begins in the far away land of Mesoamerica, known today as Mexico.
The Aztecs, with a population of 15 million, ruled fearlessly for over 200 years from the early 1500s, sending nearby tribes running for the hills and taking whatever land they fancied.
Don’t even get me started on their religious practices - we’ve all seen El Dorado right? Yep. Human sacrifice was a big part of their culture, making the Aztecs a fearsome people whose legends have been told for centuries.
Even today there are still remnants of the Aztec language being used around the world, mainly in Spanish of course but we Anglos took our fair share too; guacamole, chocolate, chilli and avocado are all words deriving from the Aztecs.
So, back to chocolate. The people of Mesoamerica were known to prepare the native cacao bean in a very particular way, first grinding the bean, then mixing it with cornmeal and chilli peppers to make an invigorating, not-sweet-at-all, drink.
Cacao was thought to be a gift from the gods, you’d find it hanging around the king’s palace and strutting its stuff at royal feasts and other special occasions.
It was kind of a big deal. So much so that cocoa beans were actually used as currency. Walking away with a bag of 100 cocoa beans for your goat, Daisy, was a successful sale!
So, we know that most of South America was colonised by the Spanish around 500 years ago. Led by Cortes, the invaders rocked up, imitating an Aztec god that were prophesied to come to pay the tribe a visit any day now.
What the Spanish didn’t know is that the humble cacao bean that they took back to Spain with them would end up being a $40 billion industry one day.
The Spanish aristocrats didn’t take to the bean at first, initially mistaking them for sheep droppings in the ship, but eventually Queen Isabella discovered that with a teaspoon of sugar and a cup of hot milk, cocoa was actually pretty good.
Soon enough, hot chocolate was the talk of the town. Enjoyed by the rich and famous at first, it soon became a sweet and fashionable treat for the masses and spread through Europe like wildfire.
So Spain opened the door for chocolate in Europe and then, the world.
The UK chocolate industry is worth £4 billion with an estimated 35% increase in sales over the next five years.
So, with the sweet treat not going anywhere anytime soon, let’s check the label and make sure our cocoa farmers are flourishing fairly and have the means of farming sustainably.
Contact us to find out how your little chocolate business can start moving in a more ethical direction, to secure a brighter future for your business and the cocoa industry worldwide.