Cocoa History

In the Mayan culture, the cocoa bean was among other things used to create a bitter tasting beverage that was shared during engagement and marriage, which serves as one of the earliest known relations between romance and chocolate.

There’s no need to say that the cocoa plant goes back a long way.
In fact, the Mesoamerican groups such as the Mayans have been using it for thousands of years. And later, when the Aztecs would gain control over a large part of mesoamerica, they called it ‘Xocolatl’, which is a derivative  of the words ‘xococ’ (bitter) and ‘atl’ (water) which later again, in 1753, would came to be known as ‘Theobroma cacao’. In Latin, Theobroma means ‘food of the gods’.

But the northern Aztecs didn’t have the climate for growing this godly food themselves, and so those who lived in areas ruled by the Aztecs further to the south were required to pay taxes in form of cocoa beans, and they were even used as currency for trading. 100 cocoa beans would net you a whole turkey while 3 beans would net you a fresh avocado, and so on.

17th Century

The European history with the cocoa bean actually begins in the early 16th century, when Columbus and his crew came across a boat filled with these beans, which they all mistoke for almonds. But even though Columbus brought these beans back to Spain, it made no impression until the Spanish monks introduced chocolate to the Spanish court.

After having discovered this holy mixture, following the defeat of the Aztecs the cocoa trade would soon explode, spreading to France and not soon thereafter to Britain where an entrepreneur opened up the first ‘hot chocolate’ shop in London with many to come.


Today, almost two thirds of the world’s cocoa beans are produced in Westen Africa, with the Ivory Coast being the biggest producer of all. Yet most of the farmers themselves don’t even know what the beans are being used for.

Farmer N’Da Alphonse is growing cocoa in the Ivory Coast, but he’s never seen the finished product. To be honest, I don’t really know what my beans are used for, he says. I have heard that the Westerners use them as a spice in the kitchen, but I have never seen it. I don’t know if it is true.

Watch this video to see the cocoa farmer taste chocolate for the first time.

Aaaand that pretty much covers it 🙂 I hope you’ll appreciate the next piece of vegan chocolate a tiny bit more the next time you bite into it – I sure know that I will!

If you want to dive a little deeper, I recommend that you read our articles on cocoa’s impact on the environment or the economy.