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The Florentine Codex + History of Drinking Cacao

The Florentine Codex + History of Drinking Cacao

 Where Did Chocolate Originate?

When many people think of the beginnings of chocolate, they imagine European chocolatiers with big white hats, lovingly stirring chocolate in a small charming cobblestone village. While Switzerland, France and Belgium are part of chocolate’s history; the origins of chocolate go back much further to Mesoamerica -where cacao was an integral part of not only cultural and spiritual practices but of the economy as a whole.

The first mention of cacao was in the Florentine Codex written by Spanish friar Bernardino Sahagún in 16th century. The Codex, also known as Historia General, is an ethnographic chronicle detailing the daily lives and practices of Mesoamerican society. Some historians refer to Friar Sahagún as one of the world’s first anthropologists. Thanks to his detailed accounts, we know exactly how chocolate was consumed.

According to the Aztec and Mayan, cacao was a sacred gift from the gods and was treated with the upmost reverence. There were parades honoring the god of cacao, which included drinking cacao as part of ceremonial practices. Even the word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocoatl” which translates to “bitter drink.”

How Was it Consumed?

This bitter drink consisted of pure cacao and an array of spices mixed with water. So how did chocolate transform from this watery, bitter drink to the chocolate we know today?

It is said that the Spanish did not think the native Mayan spices would be marketable in Europe. So they decided to remove them and add sweeteners, and thickening agents like milk. The result is the European sipping chocolate and bars we are familiar with today.

What to Order for the Mayan Experience?

If you are interested in tasting an authentic drinking chocolate, come in to the shop and order a Mayan Tradition with water or a 100% cacao with water...if you dare. For those looking for more of a sweet treat, we have an array of chocolate drinks, and even the European-style sipping chocolates.

Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about the origins of chocolate, we host AirBnb experiences that dive into chocolate’s rich history as well as the production of cacao and it's flavor profiles. Click here to find out more.

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