The real highlight of our day to the Uxmal Ruins was discovering the Chocolate Museum just opposite the Ruins. The place was absolutely fascinating.
What incredible insights to the Mayan culture! Who knew that they used chocolate beans as currency at one point in time? You could buy a rabbit for 10 cocoa beans, while a slave in good health would cost 100 cocoa beans.
The trade routes in Central America…
The museum was in the thick jungle and among the cocoa bean plants were little palapas (thatched roof huts) joined by a walking path. Inside the palapas were displays of equipment and the history of the Mayan cocoa bean.
The cocoa bean plant.
And who would have guessed that they had sacrificial ceremonies that included chocolate? Many were volunteers! They believed that they had to offer human hearts to the Sun human as food to assure that life would continue. It was recorded that one man drank several cups of a potent alcoholic drink made from cocoa, went into a trance, and offered himself as a sacrifice.
The history of “cacao” in the Mayan culture is rich with tradition, and luscious with its tidbits of facts. Cocoa was considered sacred by the Mayans, and the drinking of cocoa was a custom used to celebrate ceremonial events such as births, puberty, marriages, and funerals.
The oldest evidence of a cocoa drink dates back to 2000 B.C.
Kings, nobles and priests drank their Mayan Chocolate from special gourds decorated with etchings.
Cocoa trees can live up to 50 years and though they can grow up to 20 meters tall, their height is usually kept at 3-4 meters to make it easier to harvest the fruit. A cocoa tree doesn’t begin to produce fruit until it is 4-5 years old. Each pod contains 20-40 cocoa beans.
The cocoas flowers are actually quite pretty and grow directly from the trunk and branches.
The cocoa beans are extracted from the pod, samples cut in half, inspected and classified for quality.
The beans are then fermented, dried in the sun, roasted, chopped into nibs, and finally ground into cocoa liquor.
This is the 2 inch square piece of thick Mayan Chocolate I bought, and I wasn’t expecting much as I had sampled Mexican chocolate before and had not been very impressed, but I swear that nut-filled chunk of milk chocolate was the creamiest, smoothest, richest, most sumptuous chocolate I have ever had, and believe me, I’ve tried chocolate in probably 40 countries, and 300 cities or towns, so chocolate is my middle name. T is diabetic so, sadly for him, he could not have any of my luscious chocolate.