Chocolate, Pre-Columbian

Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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chocolate, pre-Columbian, was the New World’s most dazzling gift. Made from cacao seeds, or “beans,” enclosed in thick-skinned pods that sprout straight from both the trunk and branches of the slender, evergreen cacao tree (Theobroma cacao), chocolate is one of the most complex foods on earth. Nourishing, stimulating, packed with more than 400 chemical compounds that produce nuanced flavors and can heal and even alter mood, chocolate also has a mystical aspect. It is the stuff of desire and obsession, and has been a marker of class and status through the ages.