Posted by Pieter Taljaard
The Rotary Club of Airdrie learned about chocolate from an entertaining presentation by Rotarian Bill Skinner.
Bill developed his interest in the subject during one of his visits to Guatemala, learning that humans’ love for chocolate originated in Meso-America from as early as 350 BC: Hot foaming fermented beverages were believed to be a gift from the god of wisdom. By visiting a museum, Bill learned about these early beginnings, also that the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency, and tasted an early version of the original bitter drink. The Mayan people have some surviving writings about cacao which confirm the identification of the drink with the gods. The consumption of the chocolate drink is also depicted on pre-Hispanic vases.
Until the 16th century, the cacao tree was wholly unknown to Europeans. After its arrival to Europe in the sixteenth century, sugar was added to it, rendering it an aphrodisiac, and it became popular throughout society, first among the ruling classes and then among the common people. Within about a hundred years, chocolate established a foothold throughout Europe. Today cacao is predominately cultivated in West-Africa, and is unfortunately associated with child labor. There are various global enterprises benefitting from chocolate, of which Mars is the largest with a yearly turnover of just over $10Bn and the biggest consumers are the Swiss at approximately nine kg/capita each year.