More Than a Drink
Although no one knows exactly when the first person experimented with turning the beans from a cacao pod into an invigorating drink, there is linguistic evidence that the ancient Olmecs of Mexico prepared chocolate. By the 8th century AD, the Maya were carving images of a cacao god on ceremonial bowls. The Aztecs, later the dominant culture of Mexico, considered cacao a gift from the gods.
From archeological evidence, it is clear that the natives used cacao in a wide array of drinks, gruels, porridges, powders and probably solid substances. Ground cornmeal was often added. Flavorings such as vanilla, chili peppers, honey, annatto and allspice were often added as well as the dried flowers of various Mesoamerican trees.
Several varieties of cacao are used in making chocolate. All are believed to have originated in the Amazon and upper Orinoco River basins.