The Mayans, the pro chocolate drinkers
You probably eat chocolate every day.
For some people, biting into a piece of chocolate has become a simple, comforting, greedy, daily gesture.
Biting into a piece of chocolate is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s… But did you know that the history of the chocolate drink, or rather the cocoa drink, is much longer?
Liquid cocoa, a 5500 year old story
Indeed, if we have been eating chocolate for about 300 years; we have been drinking cocoa for 5,500 years… A much longer history that begins in South America and Central America… More broadly speaking, in Amazonia, where the Mayas and then the Aztecs lived.
Cocoa leaves its mark even in history.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered jars containing cocoa remains, mainly in Ecuador, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and even in the southern United States.
At the Choco Story Museum, located in the heart of Brussels, you can see, among other things, a mortar that was recently discovered in the south of Ecuador. In other words, a hard object that was used to break and grind the seeds in order to harvest their contents.
This is the oldest object in which theobromine, a compound found in cocoa, has been found. This mortar is shaped like a pod, the fruit of the cocoa tree. It dates back to 3500 BC. This would prove that cocoa was already consumed as a drink by the Shuar, an Amerindian people who still live in the Amazon rainforest today. But it was the Maya who began to cultivate the cocoa tree around the year 1000.
Did you know?
Theobromine, a molecule found in the cocoa tree, is a word of Greek origin. Theo means “God” and broma means “food”. So you get it, theobromine means food of the Gods.
Would you prefer your coca with salt or pepper?
The drink of the Maya was, on the other hand, very different from the one we know today: no sugar, no milk… But spices and even pepper. Through a fun game in the museum, you will discover the different ingredients of this drink and the evolution of the drink through the centuries.
If we have chocolate cups, it's because of the Mayans
If the Mayas and Aztecs drank their drink in earthenware or vegetable pots, once the drink made its appearance in Europe, a magnificent set of dishes was born.
When it arrived on our continent, cocoa first conquered the nobility, starting with the Court of the King of Spain, then the Court of the King of France. The Choco Story Museum offers to see one of the largest collections of chocolate cups and chocolate makers. There are even some very special cups, only for men: the moustache cups. They have a small porcelain moustache on which the moustache comes to rest so as not to get wet by the drink. Clever, isn’t it?
From liquid to solid chocolate
Gradually, the chocolate will solidify. During the period of industrialisation, the development of machines made it possible to process chocolate in the form of bars. A very important innovation was the invention of the hydraulic press by the Dutchman, Mr Van Houten. This press makes it possible to separate the cocoa powder from the cocoa butter, the two main materials enclosed in the cocoa bean. The recipes also changed during this period. Sugar was added… and even milk.
Belgium became known for its pralines, those delicious chocolate bites filled with cream, praline, and marzipan. The praline was invented in Brussels in 1912 by the chocolate maker Jean Neuhaus. Every day, at the Choco Story Museum, a chocolate maker is present to the delight of visitors. He explains how to make pralines in the traditional way. And to end the visit, you can observe how pralines are made, before tasting them.