I love chocolate. I enjoy tasting it every now and then, and as I write this post I have an organic chocolate bar sitting next to my laptop.
But, other than eating it, I knew nothing about chocolate nor how it’s made.
Here in Belize, I had the opportunity to learn how chocolate is made from raw cacao to final product. But what’s even more interesting is that I learned how to make chocolate like the Mayas did for over a thousand years.
The word cacao originated from the Maya word Ka’kau’, as well as the word chocolate from Chocol’ha and the verb chokola’j – “to drink chocolate together”.
The Maya believed that the ka’kau’ was discovered by the gods in a mountain that also contained other delectable foods to be used by the Maya.
Since the cacao was revered as the drink of the gods, only the elite in the Maya society could afford to drink it. In addition, the cacao seeds were used as a form of currency, so only the wealthy had the pleasure of enjoying the delightful taste of chocolate.
The Mayas passed on their knowledge of cacao through oral history and even in writing, documenting the use and importance of cacao in their daily life and rituals.
Today, in the Cyrila’s Chocolate Farm –owned and operated by Juan and Abelina Cho, a Maya couple– we can see firsthand how their ancestors used to make chocolate. (Update: Cyrila is now known as the IXCACAO Maya Belizean Chocolate)
This is their process:
Add a few machines, bells, and whistles and you’ll have the modern chocolate making technique that other local Belizean companies like Kakaw Chocolate and Cotton Tree Chocolate use, but overall, the process is still similar to what the Mayas did for hundreds of years.