Native to the tropical regions of the Americas, the chocolate bush (3-4 feet tall) grows wild in the low foothills of the Andes and in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. It likes humid climaltes, regular rainfaill, good soil and overhead shade. The evergreen produces beautiful clusters of flowers emerging from the trunk which turn into pods. The pods produce 20 to 60 seeds or beans. Hence, they are called cacao beans. Theobroma cacao is the scientific name which means food of the gods.
The Mayans and the Aztecs believed that cacao was a gift from the gods. From this belief, a number of rituals emeged as well as a cacao god. The cacao beverage was reserved for men , noblemen and clerics, as it was thought to be toxic to women and children. [Yeah, right!]
Christopher Columbus in 1502 captured a canoe of cacao beans, thinkng at first they were mysterious almonds. He then decided it was a shipment of rabbit droppings, and proceeded to burn the vessel thus delaying chocolate pleasure to the rest of the world.
Cacao beans were also used a currency. For instance, 80-100 beans could buy you a cloth blanket. In the Yucatan cacao beans were used as coins until the 1840s.
Today, chocolate is being studied for its properties of high antioxidants. Studies show that it may keep high blood pressure down. For more information go to Immune Suport.
Both my husband and I are chocolate lovers, and we have dedicated ourselves to exploring all the world has to offer in the chocolate department. I will be sharing these results in subsequent luxury clues.
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