Cocoa and other chocolate products are enjoyed by billions of people around the globe, but surprisingly few people know the history. In fact, cocoa has appeared in different cultures worldwide for hundreds of years.
Cocoa was first developed as a crop in many ancient South American cultures, with the Aztecs and Mayans being the most well-known of these indigenous populations. Researchers have found evidence of cocoa-based food dating back several thousand years.
The modern word “chocolate” stems from two words in Nahuatl, the language spoken by many native groups: chocolatl, which translated literally means “hot water,” and cacahuatl, which referred to a bitter beverage made with cocoa that was shared during religious ceremonies.
Throughout its centuries-long evolution, one factor has remained consistent and cocoa has attracted devotees worldwide. Today, over 4.5 million tons of cocoa beans are consumed annually around the globe, in everything from drinks to candy bars. It’s safe to say that the ancient Mesoamericans who pioneered the crop could never have imagined the popularity cocoa would someday experience.