A Brief History Of Chocolate From The Mayans To The Spanish

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The Mayans were the first people to make chocolate drinks. Xocolatl, as they called it, was a drink that was made by crushing the cocoa beans. Even though it was different from the chocolate we know today, it was consumed just like we do in modern times.

‘Bitter Water’ of the Mayans

Since the Mayans could not manufacture sugar from sugar cane, they couldn’t enjoy the sweetened drink that we have today. Instead, they mixed the cocoa bean crushes with chili pepper, then adding hot water. It was common for them to pour it from one cup to the other so there would be the formation of foam, which would look like the modern day Starbuck drinks.

The Mayans Associated Chocolate with a Gift from God


Every Mayan had a belief that chocolate was given to them by gods. Due to this reason, every Mayan was allowed to enjoy the drink regardless of their social class. The drink was consumed every day, but all that changed when the Aztecs conquered them.

Since the growing of cocoa beans was halted after the conquest, it created a shortage which increased its worth. The only people who had the luxury of affording this drink were high priests, the wealthy, and royalty. To show how much Xocolatl was valued, it would be served in golden goblets that were only supposed to be used once.

Chocolate was used as a Medium of Exchange

The Mayans put so much value on chocolate that it was converted in the medium of exchange which is equivalent to the modern day money. However, after the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they were forced to pay taxes using cocoa beans. Cocoa beans were also closely guarded by the new regime, but that didn’t stop the underground market from thriving.

Chocolate used in Rituals

Since there was a common belief that xocolatl had the power to alter the brain, it was used in rituals by both Aztecs and the Mayans. The Mayans would hold a ritual festival every year to honor their god Ek Chauh for the gift of cocoa. They offered blood sacrifice, cocoa beans, and ritual dancing. The Aztec held their celebration as well which involved sacrificing a noble warrior from the rival tribe to their cocoa god.

The use of Chocolate during Births and Weddings

If you attended a Mayan wedding ceremony, you would be a served with a drink made of crushed cocoa beans and corn gruel. The drink was popular, and it was impossible not to find one at a wedding. The Mayans used clear water, flowers, and cocoa seeds to anoint the newborn. However, this changed when they were converted to Catholics by the Spanish.

Healing Power of Chocolate

The Mayans held strong beliefs that xocolatl had healing powers and would be used to treat different illnesses. The Aztecs would also take the bitter drink before heading for battle, as they believed it would give them extra strength.

The Sweetened Spanish Chocolate

After the Spanish invaded and defeated the Aztecs, they were introduced to the bitter drink but were not willing to adopt it. However, when they took the seeds to Europe, the monks realized that it would taste much better if it had sugar. That’s where the modern sweet chocolate came to existence.


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