People tend to think of hot chocolate as a warm, comforting drink, one served up to small children on a cold night. But it was once revered as a great tonic for warriors, who needed energy and sustenance to tackle challenges such as big battles or arduous journeys. In fact, hot chocolate has a history as rich and colorful as the drink itself.
Here are some fun facts about the history of hot chocolate in ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures:
- The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayan people of around 2,000 years ago, and a cocoa beverage was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD.
- An early Classic (460-480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, was found to contain vessels bearing the Mayan glyph for cacao, and the vessels contained the residue of a chocolate drink.
- In ancient Mesoamerica, the cacao drink, known as “xocolātl” was considered sacred and was used during initiation ceremonies, funerals, and marriages. During this time, cacao beans were also used as currency.
- Montezuma II, the last ruler of the Aztec empire, was said to have kept a huge storehouse of cacao, and to have drunk up to 50 golden goblets of chocolate a day.
- Montezuma II is also said to have decreed that only men who went to war were to imbibe the precious cacao drink, and thus cacao became a regular part of military rations.
- During the battles between Montezuma II’s forces and the Spanish conquistadors who invaded Mexico under the rule of Conquistador Hernán Cortés, it was noted that the Aztec’s chocolate drink helped to fortify and energize the men, as one Spanish observer noted: “This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”
- After defeating Montezuma’s warriors and demanding that the Aztec nobles hand over their valuables, Cortés returned to Spain in 1528, bringing cocoa beans and chocolate drink making equipment.Drinking chocolate or hot chocolate soon became popular amongst the elite in Spain, and then spread across the rest of Europe.
So, it seems we have the ancient Aztecs and their precious cacao beans to thank for the delicacy we know today as hot chocolate. And while the modern version — particularly the tasty Rae’s Gourmet Hot Chocolate that’s also infused with Ganoderma lucidum — may be a lot more refined than its ancient predecessor, it certainly remains a powerful elixir, and one that we have happily added to our beverage repertoire.