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Chocolate literally grows on trees, appearing in its raw state as pods on the 40-60 foot tall trees known botanically as “Theobroma cacao,” which means “food of the gods.” This widebranching tropical evergreen has grown wild in Central America since prehistoric times. It also grows in South America, Africa and part of Asia.
· The Mayan Indians of Mexico began using a form of chocolate as early as 600 a.d., at which point they worshiped the cocoa bean as an idol, a literal gift from the heavens.
· Cocoa beans were thought to have fearsome magical powers by the Maya and were carefully used in rituals, religious ceremonies and healings by priests. The Maya used cocoa medicinally as a treatment for fever, coughs and even discomfort during pregnancy.
· The Maya had a God, Ykchaua, who served as the patron of cocoa merchants.
· The Maya were the first to invent a cocoa drink, a hot, mostly bitter beverage made up ground cocoa pods and spices.
· Later, the Aztec Indians improved upon the recipe, sweetening it with vanilla and honey. They called their drink “xocoati” (pronounced similar to Chocolatl), meaning “bitter water.”
· In Aztec myth, the god of agriculture, Questzalcoatl, traveled to earth carrying the cocoa tree from Paradise, because it would bring humans wisdom and power.
· Chocolate became so highly regarded by the Aztecs that it was used as a form of currency along with gold dust.
· The Florentine Codex, one of the main historical sources describing Aztec life, calls chocolate “The drink of nobles,” and notes that it must be prepared with the meticulous care due to its powerful nature.
· Although Columbus returned to Europe with the first cocoa beans, no one knew what to do with them and they were dismissed in favor of other trade goods.
· Europeans got their first real taste of chocolate when Emperor Moctezuma met the explorer Cortes and his army with a foaming hot chocolate drink.
The story begins some 3,000 years ago in the jungles of Mexico and Central America with the chocolate tree, Theobroma Cacao, and the complex processes necessary to transform its bitter seeds into what is now known as chocolate. This was centuries before chocolate was consumed in generally unsweetened liquid form and used as currency by the Maya, and the Aztecs after them. The Spanish conquest of Central America introduced chocolate to Europe, where it first became the drink of kings and aristocrats and then was popularized in coffeehouses.
Carib Indians inhabited Grenada when Columbus discovered the island in 1498, but it remained uncolonized for more than a century. The French settled Grenada in the 17th century, established sugar estates, and imported large numbers of African slaves. Britain took the island in 1762 and vigorously expanded sugar production. In the 19th century, cacao eventually surpassed sugar as the main export crop; in the 20th century, nutmeg became the leading export.
Colonies and India, December 12, 1886
London, United Kingdom
The manufacturers of rum in Grenada are loud in their complaints as to the death-blow which is being dealt at their means of sub- sistence by the importation of rum from Martinique, St. Vincent, Trinidad, and other places. It appears that the evil is one which ought not to exist, and calls for prompt legislative action. At present, rum manufactured out of Grenada is admitted into that Colony at a rate similar to the local Excise duty. This is considered unfair, and it is suggested to the Government either to reduce the Excise duty from 5s. to 4s., or to increase the import duty from 5s. to 6s. The importers of rum urge that they are driven to seek the article out of the Colony because they are able to procure a spirit of higher proof, and at less cost than that which can be supplied locally.
Colonies and India, June 18, 1892
London, United Kingdom
We sailed from Trinidad on February 20, at at 8 p.m. on the following day were safely anchored in the Carenage of Georgetown, the picturesque chief town of Grenada. Going on deck shortly after sunrise on the following morning, the land-locked harbour presented an enchanted scene. It is surrounded by an amphitheatre of hills of the most varied forms, clothed with the richest vegetation from their summits down to the water’s edge. We landed at 7 a.m. and drove up to Government House. After breakfast we started on horseback for the Grand Etang. The bridle path ascends rapidly, in a distance of less than seven miles, to a height of some 2,000 feet. Having scaled the topmost ridge the view extends to the eastward over the broad waters of the Atlantic and to the westward over the Caribbean Sea.
In the foreground lies the Grand Etang, a lake some thirteen acres in extent, filling an ancient crater. Throughout the ascent, the scenery is exquisitely beautiful. The mountains are broken into lofty peaks and deep valleys, affording at every turn some new, yet always charming, view. The vegetation includes all the trees and flowers of the tropics. Grenada is fortunate in being less dependent on a single product than most of the islands of the West Indies. They surface of the island is too mountainous for the successfulo plantation of sugar, and the chief product is cocoa, the exports of which are nearly a quarter a million a year in value, the quantity shipped having doubled in the last ten years. Many valuable spices are extensively cultivated. A trade in fruit is being opened up with the United States. The aggregate exports have advanced from 181,000 lb. in 1886 to 266,000 lb. in 1890.
Cocoa grows most luxuriantly in the West Indies up to an elevation of 2,00 feet. It needs a deep soil. A planter who contemplates growing cocoa must begin by clearing the forest, an operation which should be undertaken a year before planting is attempted. As soon as the forest is cleared, bananas should be planted 12 to 15 feet apart, and a nursery formed in which the cocoa can be raised from seed. At the end of the second year, during the rainy season, teh cocoa should be planted out, in the porportion of about 300 trees to the acre. In three years, in favourable localities, the plants begin to bear. In five years, the trees are in full bearing, when the produce will average 900 lbs. to the acres. A good tree should yield some three pounds of cocoa. The price, according to the latest New York quotations, was 12 cents per pound, which would give 108 dollars to the acre. Nutmet is becoming a source of great profit to many islands in the West Indies. This is specially the case in Grenada. For many years the nutmeg tree has been grown; it is only recently that its cultivation has received serious atteniton. To start a nutmeg plantation the ground must be cleared, at a cost of 6l. per acre. Saman trees should then be planted, 45 feet apart. Meanwhile the nutmeg seeds should be carefully reared in the nursery. In about two years the seedlings should be planted out. Unless the locality is very favourable, ten years must elapse before the trees begin to be productive. A large number will be of the male sex; and as the proportion of male to female trees should not exceed one in thirty, the planter will have to cut down the trees freely as soon as their sex is declared. Mr. Whitfield Smith, the able superintendent of the Botanical Gardens at Grenada, has strong hopes that this difficulty may be overcome by budding. It is reckoned that a nutmeg tree should yield an annual profit to the planter of about ten shillings per tree. On the heights above Georgetown, extensive stone forts, from which the last soldier has long since been withdrawn, form an important feature. These forts were mostly erected during the period of the French occupation. As we strolled along the grass-grown battlements it was difficulit to realise that it should ever have been thought worth while to expend blood and treasure on a barren contest for remote islands, which could bring so little profit or glory to a great European Power. Our trade with the West Indies depends to a small extent only, and now less than ever, on their nominal subjection to the British Crown.
At Grenada we found the Governor, Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, busily engaged in an effort to settle the labourers on the Crown lands of the Windward Islands, the object in view being to give to those Colonies the advantage of numbering among their population a large proportion of small proprietors having a stake in the prosperity of the islands. In pursuance of this policy, allotments of Crown lands are in course of being sold to labourers at moderate prices. In time the number of small proprietors will become considerable. It will be obvious that this generous policy must be carried out with care and discretion. Living under a tropical sky, and settled pon a productive soil, the natural disposition of the labourers, if left to themselves, will be to grow only provisions, such as cassave, yams, plantains, and bananas, and to neglect the cultivation of cocoa and other economical plants.
Dwelling in remote valleys, away from the influences of civilisation, the risk is great that they may, instead of improving, deteriorate both morally and materially. To meet this difficulty it was at one time in contemplation that the Government should a form model plantations, directing the cultivation and preparation of economical products for the market. The labourers were to be paid at fixed prices for the production, and to receive the profits in addition, after deducting cost of supervision and manufacture and a low rent for the land. It has not as yet been found practicable to carry out this scheme. Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson has now made a proposal for an experimental clearing in the Richmond Valley, in the Island of St. Vincent. It is estimaetd to involve an expenditure of 5,000l. on which a return of 5 per cent may be looked for. I hope that this proposal, when placed before the public, may prove sufficiently attractive, both from a philanthropic and a prudential point of view, to attract subscriptions to the limited amount required.
Leaving Grenada at 8 P.M. on February 23, at daybreak on the 24th St. Vincent was near at hand on the starboard bow, presenting a noble mass of mountains rising to a height of 4,000 feet. The Administrator, Captain Maling, paid an early call on board.
We discussed the recent troubles among the black population. Discontent had been caused by the proposal to cease to maintain in each island a separate Chief Justice, of necessity comparatively poorly paid and only partially employed. The Government were desirous of appointment law officers at higher salaries, who should undertake to act for a group of islands. The plan was unpopular in those islands which would have been deprived of a resident official while called upon to contribute to the salary of an officer resident elsewhere.
The black population have been complaining, and not without reason, of the low scale to which their wages have been reduced. The men now barely earn a shilling per day, adn the women somewhat less. In the depression which had lately fallen on the sugar industry, reductions of wages were accepted as irritable. In the more cheering position which has now been reached, the negroes consider that their pay should be more liberal. We passed through large gatherings of people in Kingstown and the outskirts. They bore no marks of squalor or of discontent. Whenever we addressed them they were most friendly. Weighing anchor shortly after midnight, at dawn on February 26, we were off the famous Pitons of St. Lucia.
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Authors: Janet Henshall Momsen and Pamela Richardson
Title: Caribbean Cocoa: Planting and Production
Chocolate, the Food of the Gods, was introduced as a crop to the Caribbean by the Spanish who took it from Venezuela and planted it in Trinidad probably in 1525. By the early 1600s, through depredations of English buccaneers in the Caribbean and knowledge gained from contact with Spanish physicians, chocolate became known in England for its medicinal qualities. After sugar cane was introduced to the Caribbean in the mid-17th century, cacao continued to be grown in the Spanish and French islands. In 1655, the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish and took over the cocoa plantations, which were known as cocoa ”walks.” The early success of British planters in Jamaica, however, was short-lived: by 1673 the island was reported to be in a terrible state afflicted by drought and so-called “blasts.” As settlement of Jamaica became established, rich planters obtained land, and the production of sugar cane and cotton expanded while cacao production declined. The remaining cacao planters suffered from competition for labor, from the Port Royal earthquake of 1692, disturbances caused by the French invasion in 1688, and the Maroon Wars of the 1730s. New cocoa walks were laid out after the Treaty of Paris in 1763 but by the end of the century supply exceeded demand and prices collapsed. Labor shortages following slave emancipation meant that cocoa did not recover until the end of the 19th century when market prices improved. Cocoa became a post-emancipation crop for small peasant producers in many islands but in Jamaica coffee filled this role although a few cocoa plantations survived. In 1876 there were only 45 acres of cocoa in Jamaica, with further decline to 26 acres in 188l. By 1892, however, cocoa acreage had risen to 1,182 and ten years later reached 3,548. In the Windward Islands (Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent), former slaves obtained farmland and became the innovators in cacao management. By the 1890s St. Vincent’s exports of cocoa rose from 11,996 pounds in 1878, to 73,862 pounds in 1888, and to 285,778 pounds by 1913. During the last decades of the 19th century and the first two of the 20th century, cocoa provided a relatively comfortable livelihood for many peasant farmers, Creoles, and East Indians, and made fortunes for the larger French Creole planters. Despite the production difficulties and price fluctuations, Trinidad became the undisputed leader in Caribbean cocoa production throughout the 19th century. Cocoa played a major role in the settlement of former slaves as independent farmers and throughout its history has influenced the social and cultural development of the Caribbean region. After 1920, however, Caribbean cocoa became increasingly marginalized by the expansion of cocoa production in Ceylon, Malaysia, Philippines, and ultimately West Africa.
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Part Six. Colonial and Federal Eras (part 2). Chapters 28-32.
Chapter 28 (Rose) considers the Dutch cacao/chocolate trade in the lower Hudson Valley of New York state during the 17th and 18th centuries, and traces purchases of raw commodities in the Caribbean to chocolate-processing in Holland, with subsequent export to North America during the colonial era. Chapter 29 (McCombs) builds upon the Dutch experience and further examines chocolate manufacturing in the upper Hudson Valley, especially the development and expansion of cocoa processing in Albany, New York. Chapter 30 (Gay) considers the rise and development of chocolate manufacturing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and explores business relationships that evolved among chocolate makers, the impacts of war and peace during the Revolutionary era on sales and the changing complexity of chocolate manufacturing in this important Colonial North American city. Chapter 31 (Westbrook, Fox, and McCarty) considers military aspects of chocolate use during the Colonial Era and Revolutionary War within the Northern Frontier, especially its role as a dietary component and medical product used at Fort Ticonderoga, New York. Chapter 32 (Kelly) considers chocolate as a product commonly part of provisions taken aboard 19th century whaling ships, and how chandlers and grocers in New Bedford, Massachusetts, obtained and supplied chocolate for long-term whaling voyages.
Part Seven. Southeast/Southwest Borderlands and California.
Chapter 33 (Cabezon, Barriga, Grivetti) describes the earliest documented uses of chocolate in North America, associated with Spanish Florida (St. Augustine). Chocolate-related documents reveal other introductions through Texas, New Mexico, into Arizona, and show both religious and military uses of chocolate as desired energy and pleasurable products within this geographical region of the continent. The authors also identify how chocolate was used as a reward and provided to friendly Native American populations during the early years of Spanish colonization. Chapter 34 (Grivetti, Barriga, Cabezon) considers the introduction and spread of cocoa and chocolate in California, from the time of earliest European exploration, through the Mexican period, to the eve of the California Gold Rush. Their chapter draws heavily on chocolate-content in original letters penned by Franciscan Fathers who were responsible for much of the distribution of chocolate and chocolate products in California. Chapter 35 (Gordon) continues the California chocolate story and explores its use during the Gold Rush and Post-Gold Rush Eras when chocolate played important roles in miners’ food patterns, and in the social life of mid-19th century San Francisco. His chapter concludes with an examination of California chocolate manufacturing from its beginnings to a place of prominence in the 21st century.
Author: Peter Rose
Title: Dutch Cacao Trade in New Netherland During the 17th and 18th Centuries. Flag of the Dutch West India Company
In 1609 Henry Hudson explored the river that would receive his name. The Dutch West India Company encouraged settlers to the new province of New Netherland. The settlers plied the fur trade but raised foods to outfit ships that were part of the Dutch trade network and some of this trade was in cacao. Trade in cacao between New Amsterdam (New York) and the Caribbean brought beans to North America in enormous cargoes that ranged from 5,000-485,000 pounds. Merchants in New York City and the Hudson Valley served cacao to their guests as noted in numerous accounts. Within the Hudson Valley at New Paltz, Huguenots were active in the cacao/chocolate trade as noted in receipts and ledger books during the late 18th century. Archaeological excavations at the Dann Site, Seneca Iroquois location in New York State, revealed that white earthenware chocolate cups were imported to this region during the mid 17th century. Chinese export porcelain chocolate pots also became popular in the region.
Author: W. Douglas McCombs
Title: Chocolate Consumption and Production in New York’s Upper Hudson River Valley (1730-1830).
Chocolate was available in the port city of New York, at the mouth of the Hudson River, by at least the early 18th century, as demonstrated in the numerous account books showing the sale of chocolate by city merchants. Farther north along the upper stretches of the Hudson River at Albany and along the Mohawk River in Schenectady, surviving documents reveal a similar availability of chocolate by the 1730s. In Albany, chocolate not only was old by storeowners; it was ground and processed at mill sites near town beginning around 1750 and continuing well into the 19th century. An examination of the sale and production of chocolate in the Upper Hudson Valley offers a window onto a burgeoning consumer economy that had links to both trans-Atlantic trade as well as emerging markets within the newly established United States. Albany Institute documents confirm the early availability of chocolate in the Upper Hudson Valley. A single receipt for Captain Peter Winne (1690-1759) lists two separate purchases of chocolate, both of considerable size, indicating they were probably intended for wholesale to an Albany merchant or merchants. By the 1750s, chocolate was readily obtainable in Albany. An account book for Albany merchant and trader Harmen Van Heusen abounds with sales of chocolate between 1758 and 1760. Albany residents also had the opportunity to buy freshly ground chocolate from about 1790 to about 1830, and a source of locally ground chocolate probably existed as early as 1750. Although the Upper Hudson Valley rested on the edge of a vast frontier throughout most of the 18th century, residents from its flourishing communities did not need to abstain from tasting the delightful, bittersweet flavor of chocolate. Merchants and traders supplied the delicious commodity on a fairly regular basis, although periodically shortages may have limited consumers’ access to it. By the end of the 18th century, Albany could boast having one of the largest, best-equipped chocolate mills in the nation, which provided freshly ground chocolate for both local consumers and more distant markets in Canada and elsewhere. The availability of chocolate in Albany and other communities in the Upper Hudson Valley allowed regional consumers to participate in a broader national and international market, while reaffirming connections to European social practices and cultural customs.
Myth of the plumed serpent
The ancient Mayan civilization worshipped a flying serpent, known as Quetzalcoatl.
The myth of Quetzalcoatl is the story of a man and a God. Quetzalcoatl is to some of the Mesoamerican culture a member of the pantheon of overlords. He is symbolized in art and literature as the plumed serpent.
Quetzal is a word which represents a beautiful multi-colored bird while Coatl is a word meaning snake or serpent.
The plummed serpent Quetzalcoatl was revered as a God of creation and rejuvenation by many of the Meso American tribes and cultures of Central and South America in the past and even today.
His spiritual presence can be traced back to the Olmecs, Mixtecs, Mayan, Toltecs, and Aztecs.
The spiritual energy attributed to Quetzalcoatl finds it’s opposite in the overlord Tezcatlipoca who was well mentioned in the story that relates how the plumed serpent left the land of the Aztecs after having been humiliated by the dark lord through acts of deceit from beyond smoking mirrors.
Before the Aztecs came on the scene several other tribes had lived off of the lands in the Valley of Mexico. Some of these Meso-americans had built a great city called Teotihuacan but like the cycles of creation described in the myth of Quetzalcoatl the city fell into ruins in the 7th century AD.
Next to come along were the Toltecs who rebuilt pyramids over the previous ruins. They were around from the tenth to twelfth century and their city was the city of Tollen or Tula. A Toltec King was revered as the man figure of Quetzalcoatl and it is he who was the victim of the dark spirit of Tezcatlipoca. When the plumed serpent king left the Toltec city he vowed to return one day.
By the 14th century AD the Aztecs were the cultural force to be reckoned with in the Valley of Mexico and they had taken on many of the cultural and spiritual beliefs of their predecessors. The prophecy of the return of Quetzalcoatl was amongst those.
The Aztecs were also into building monumental architectural pyramids and structures. Their city was called Tenochtitlan which represented their namesake; the Tenochca.
The Aztecs were also recognized as the Mexica. They were however not alone in the Valley of Mexico. The rise of the Aztec empire was partly due to the diplomatic savvy and war strategies of their overlord emporer king leaders. Several pacts would have been made during the duration of the Aztec empire. The most famous of which would have been the triple alliance.
At the height of the Aztec Empire an overlord king named Montezuma II was in power. Under the rule of Montezuma II several members of the clan of the Aztecs were offered in sacrifice to the sun God Quetzalcoatl.
These rituals of pagan religion are the darkside of another wise great culture. The believers in the prophecy ofthe return of Quetzalcoatl would might certainly have been looking for their saving grace to come riding into town.
Tenochtitlan (mexico City) Photograph – Tenochtitlan (mexico City) Fine Art Print – Granger
Hernan Cortes, or as he is most often called in history books, Hernando Cortez was an explorer born in 1485 and a spanish conquistador.
To the Aztec leader who had been sacrificing the blood of his clans people to the sun god plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl the conquistador was the chosen Messiah.
Cortez was sailing to the American continent under the Cuban orders of the discover of Mexico, Diego Velasquez, on an assignment to build a colony at first but plans changed and he was relieved of that duty. He however stayed on the continent and befriended a young native princess who would go on to be his translator. He and his conquistadors fought many battles against the Meso-americans before they arrived in the territory of Montezuma. At the same time they found themselves fighting the very Cubans who had sent them to the continent.
Cortez made is way to Tenochtitlan and he was praised instantly as the prophecized Quetzalcoatl by the Aztec overlord. Through a series of events the tribe warriors turned against Cortez and when Montezuma tried to calm his warriors they pulled a coup d’etat on the chief of the clan. Montezume would later die of the wounds received in this battle.
The story goes on to say that through a series of battles between Cortez and the new rulers of Tenochtitlan the spaniard Cortez brought about the end of the Aztec empire. The end came when the new Aztec emperor king Guatemoc surrendered to Cortez in 1521.