Guatemala is the birthplace of chocolate, and there’s nowhere better than Antigua Guatemala’s Chocolate Museum to discover the history behind the cacao bean and its importance in Mayan history.
The word cacao comes from the Mayan “Ka’kaw,” and chocolate stems from the Mayan “Chocol’haa” meaning bitter water. Mayan mythology states that cacao was given to humans as a gift to the hero Hunahpu by the god Kukulkan (the feathered serpent), and it was first and mostly consumed as a drink. Hence the name of “theobroma cacao” meaning the food of the Gods.
Chocolate was enjoyed only by the most noble and elite Mayans, and intricate vases filled with cacao have been discovered in Mayan royal tombs from 450BC. Cacao played an important part in many Mayan ceremonies, but it also had one other function in Guatemala: that of a currency. Cacao beans were frequently used in trades and when the Spanish colonialists arrived they were struck by the importance Mayans placed on the beans—which they though to be a new variety of almond.
While Guatemala was once the world’s top producers of cacao, the profits of growing it were not as significant as coffee or sugar cane, and over the years the industry waned. More recently, however, there has been a Guatemalan chocolate boom, and the country with nearly 9,200 cacao farms (4,500 ha) producing around 12,500 tons of cocoa beans each year. Our cocoa beans are 100% Criollo variety, —the oldest known variety and also the rarest—which is considered the finest of all cocoa varieties, as it contains barely any bitter compounds, has a pleasant fruity sweetness and very low acidity, it has a sweet aroma and a light, well-rounded taste. The taste of the raw cocoa is described as sweet and fruity, capturing the aromas of banana, lemon, vanilla and apple. A distinct note of cocoa, a subtle tartness, and a slightly bitter aftertaste lend it a clean, harmonious and rounded flavour.
The cocoa beans harvested in Guatemala are carefully fermented in wooden boxes wrapped in banana leaves and subsequently sun-dried. The beans are transported by sea from Puerto Quetzal to Kaohsiung port and offered to selected chocolate makers for further processing – either from bean-to-bar or into cocoa mass, and derived products.
可可一詞來自瑪雅語“ Ka’kaw”，巧克力源於瑪雅語“ Chocol’haa”，意為苦水。瑪雅神話說，可可是神（羽蛇蛇）送給人類的禮物，是向英雄洪納普（Hunahpu致敬的，主要是作為飲料使用，因此，“可可”的名稱意味著眾神的食物。