Chocolate is one of the oldest, if not the oldest mostly unaltered food in the world. The process hasn’t changed much since the discovery 3500+ years ago. Although always consumed in liquid form the growing, harvesting fermenting, drying and shelling ( called winnowing) is the same as it is now. Each pod must be harvested by hand as the next flower or growth is right next to the ripe pod. Each pod is opened with a knife by hand. Cut too deep and an enzyme is released and the contents are immediately spoiled. The contents being cocoa beans. Each batch is wrapped in banana leaves, which are very large, and allowed to ferment in the sun. The beans are encased in a silky white sugar coating and when air is cut off and heat introduced, the beans ferment. After this they are spread out, stirred with a wooden rake until dried.
They are now ready to be shelled. The shell is thin and breaks apart easily. What remains is are called nibs. These are the pieces that get ground into chocolate.Today we enjoy very silky smooth chocolate because we have state of the art cocoa presses and conching (stirring) machines. The Aztecs, known for the discovery of this pod, used a wooden vessel and wooden utensil to grind the beans until smooth. Undoubtedly gritty, they mixed the substance with water, chili peppers and drank it. It was the original “hot chocolate!” There isn’t a food in the world with more history and colorful stories than chocolate!