Puerto Vallarta, Mexico – If you love chocolate, this is the walk for you! In Puerto Vallarta, there are a few good chocolatiers creating both artisan and everyday chocolate delights. We visit three of the best where you will see how these chocolates are made.
You will smell the distinctive aroma of the cacao as soon as you walk in the door. Observe the production kitchen staff as they create a myriad of beautiful and mouth-watering confections. As you sample some of these, you will begin to understand why, In the early 1700’s, Swedish botanist Linnaeus named the cacao tree Theobromo cacao from the Greek meaning “food of the Gods.”
You will be introduced to the history of chocolate and its relationship to Vallarta to better appreciate the journey chocolate has taken from the bitter drink of the Mayans to the many delicious products we have today.
Begin with a mini-class where you will roast and grind cacao beans, and prepare the ancient drink of the Spanish Conquistadors who improved the bitter Mayan drink with honey. Experience local street culture as we walk from one shop to the next.
Free samples and the opportunity to purchase various chocolate goodies, including body lotions and soaps made from the cacao butter process, are included.
BRIEF HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE
Chocolate, or “chocolatl” as the Mayans called it (meaning bitter water in their local Nahuatl language), has been around for over 3000 years!
First discovered growing in the tropical lowlands by the Olmecs in today’s states of Veracruz and Tabasco in southeastern Mexico, the cacao was then taken up by the Mayans and used for its perceived medicinal value. They seasoned their chocolate by mixing the roasted cacao seed paste into a drink with water, chili peppers, and cornmeal, transferring the mixture repeatedly between pots until the top was covered with a thick foam.
By 1400, the Aztecs had taken over a sizable part of the Mesoamerican Mayan territory. They were not able to grow cacao themselves, but were forced to import it from the Mayans. Thus, the cacao bean became a form of currency and the basis for a tax levied on the conquered Mayans.
The Aztecs drank their chocolatl cold, consuming it for a variety of purposes, especially as an aphrodisiac, as a treat for men after banquets, or included in the rations of Aztec soldiers. Apparently, Moctezuma II, leader of the Aztec Empire from 1502-1520, served 2,000 jugs of frothed cacao at feasts and consumed 30-40 cups of the drink himself before visiting his harem!
The cacao beans eventually showed up in Sevilla, Spain in 1585 on ships arriving from Mexico and Central America. There, it quickly became a court favorite. It was still served as a beverage, but the Spanish added sugar or honey to counteract the natural bitterness.
Wealthy Europeans paid dearly for the import until eventually, prices fell as more countries planted cacao trees in their own territories around the Equator. The industry has grown since this time as various inventions introduced milk chocolate, chocolate bars, and powdered chocolate.
Come join me for one of my eight different Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours.
Sandra Cesca has lived in Puerto Vallarta for 11 years. She is a cultural tour guide with her own small business: Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours. She is also a cultural photographer and writer whose work can be found on Your Cultural Insider and Sandra Cesca Photography. Contact her: sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com.
Click HERE to discover more of Sandra’s Puerto Vallarta Walking Tours.
Source: Banderas News