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The True History of Chocolate


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It seems strange to think that even the humble chocolate bar has a long and interesting history. This history reaches far back to the earliest civilisation in the Americas, and it was the Olmecs not the Aztecs who can be rightly named as the inventors of chocolate. Told with flair and wit, this history of cacoa looks at its ancient Mexican roots, questioning how it became the food of the gods, its ritual significance, and how it was used as a currency in trade among the Olmec. Piecing together a range of archaeological, documentary and pictorial evidence, Sophie and Michael Coe discuss the Theobrama cacoa tree, the chemical properties of cacao and its early domestication and use. The story of chocolate continues under the Aztecs and their first encounters with the Europeans. The authors trace the transformation and renaming of cacao as it made its way to the chocoholics of Europe - `the white-skinned perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility'. Finally, Coe and Coe discuss its years of competititon with tea and coffee as the preferred hot beverage, its links with the Church, and its surrender to the industrialisation of the 19th century which withdrew the mystique of this luscious mouth-watering treat and turned it into an everyday, mass-produced, highly calorific product.The Coes, both anthropologists with a culinary bent, delve deeply into the history of their mouth-watering subject. The material on ancient cultures is particularly fascinating--did you know that the Maya used unsweetened liquid chocolate as currency? And in a chapter called "Chocolate for the Masses," they detail the modernization of chocolate manufacture, which has allowed more than 25 million Hershey's Kisses to roll off the conveyor belt each day.

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