I used to think that chocolate came from Europe. My views, however, changed after a visit to the Chocolate Bazaar in Los Pinos, Mexico City, last weekend. It was there that I found out about chocolate history, its Mesoamerican origins, and its unique flavors that distinguish Mexican chocolate from its European counterparts.
Well, let me tell you the history of chocolate. It begins in Mesoamerica, where ancient civilizations like the Maya and the Aztecs cultivated cacao trees over 3,000 years ago. In these civilizations, cacao held sacred significance and was an integral part of religious ceremonies. It was so revered that cacao was often referred to as the “Food of the Gods.” These ancient people enjoyed cacao in a form very different from today’s sweet treats, as they prepared a bitter, frothy beverage flavored with spices and chili peppers. Then, the introduction of cacao to Europe occurred during the early 16th century, thanks to the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. At first, European palates found the bitter, unsweetened cacao beverage to be quite different from their usual beverages. As a result of the invention, the addition of sugar and milk transformed cacao into a more delicious and luxurious drink.
And the moment I stepped inside the bazaar, I was greeted by the aroma of chocolate filling the air. Vendors passionately vied for the attention of visitors, hoping to look over their stalls. They were from different states: Oaxaca, Tabasco, Puebla, Chiapas, and many more. But it was one particular stall that caught my eye — a stall offering various exotic flavors of chocolate from Tabasco, including Chapulines or Grasshopper. We all know that chocolate with fruits, coffee, or nuts is common. But what if they mix it up with something like herbs, spices, and insects? So I bought one package of five different tastes to try.
Pataste or Chayote
The Pataste (Chayote) chocolate smelled of a cinnamon aroma, at my first bite I could taste the granny texture, a mildly bitter, and slightly sweet taste that I think came from the chayote.