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    Ask the Chef: Why is chocolate considered an ancient food?

    By Julie Morris, Superfood Chef | August 9, 2016


    When you're grabbing your favorite chocolate bar at your local market, chances are its shiny wrapper, perfect angles, and delectable texture and flavor don't suggest anything even remotely “ancient.†And yet chocolate's history is truly as long as it is fascinating!

    As you may know, all chocolate comes from cacao - a product that has understandably been one of the most popular items at Navitas Naturals for well over a decade! The amazing cacao tree fruits colorful cacao “pods,†which house large seeds known as cacao “beans.†When ground up, these beans are called cacao nibs, and can be ground down further and transformed into all kinds of products, including cacao powder, cacao butter, and of course… chocolate.

    But before you assume that our generation is a cacao-driven genius for figuring out how to master this delicacy, you may be surprised to learn that cacao has been used for thousands of years! Let's take a look at a few of the more fascinating moments of cacao's long and illustrious history:

    4000 B.C.: The cacao tree is said to have originated in the shaded regions of the Amazon around this time.

    600 A.D.: The first cultivation of cacao begins with the Mayans, who enjoyed cacao beans quite often, using them in bitter drinks and recipes.

    800-1200 A.D.: The Aztec civilizations are also lured into the magic of cacao consumption, worshipping the cacao tree, and weaving the ingredient deeply into their ceremonies and mythology (Theobroma cacao is literally translated as “food of the gods cacao.â€) When the Aztecs battle the Mayans in this period, cacao beans are among the most cherished spoils.

    1502: Christopher Columbus lands in Guanaja, off the coast of Honduras, and is welcomed by natives with an unsweetened cacao-infused drink. Although he returns to Spain with cacao beans as a gift for the court, the unsweetened ingredient is met with initial indifference.

    1519: Spanish conqueror Herana Cortes lands in Mexico, and is also welcomed with a similar cacao drink. He too returns with cacao beans for the Spanish court, but this time, sugar and vanilla are also making their way into Spanish terrain. Within a few years, the cacao drink is regularly consumed in this sweetened and flavored manner.

    1606: Cacao beans and the now infamous chocolate drink is introduced to Italy by Explorer Fracesco Carletti.

    1659: The lure of cacao spreads from country to country: Englishmen establish the first cacao plantation in Jamaica, while the first small chocolate shop in Paris opens.

    1760: The first official chocolate factory opens in Paris.

    1819: The first Swiss chocolate factory is opened.

    1828: Chemist Coenraad van Houten of Holland invents the cacao press, which separates the cacao butter from the cacao powder, and creates a smooth chocolate.

    1879: A new method called conching is developed by Rodolphe Lindt, in which the chocolate is rolled back and forth, creating the ultra-smooth texture we enjoy in chocolate today.

    1923: The first chocolate bar is launched in the American market by Fran Mars.

    2004: Navitas Naturals launches a 100% organic cacao product line that allows anyone to enjoy cacao in its most pure, natural, and health-giving state.

    TODAY: Chocolate is absolutely everywhere, but the trend has veered farther away from chocolate candies and delicacies, and full circle back to simply enjoying the real thing itself: the one and only, cacao.

    Looking for even more cacao history? Explore more details in Elisabeth Johansson's book, “Chocolate.â€