Just as the exact origins of the cacao tree are still in question, so are the exact beginnings of humans’ relationship with this delectable food.

Archaeologists know that humans tasted chocolate at least 4,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, amidst abundant cacao forests. But the cacao of the ancients was very different from today’s chocolate.

For many centuries, chocolate was a bitter drink. Made from cacao nibs, it was akin to modern-day baking chocolate mixed with water. Some cultures drank it cold and some hot.

The ancients added flavorings such as allspice, cinnamon, chili powder and vanilla. They may have mixed in maize or sweeteners such as honey, agave syrup or cactus.

Opening cocoa pods, early 1900s. Courtesy of The Hershey Company.Then they poured the drink, either from a height or back and forth, to produce a froth—and drank the foam that rose, because it was closest to heaven.

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Did You Know?
The ancients also fermented the pulp of the cacao pod to make other beverages.
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