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  • Writer's pictureIsmael Neggaz

The history of cacao dates back to ancient Mesoamerica, now modern-day Mexico and Central America. The Olmec civilization, which existed from 1200 BC to 400 BC, is believed to have been the first to cultivate cocoa beans. The Mayan and Aztec civilizations that followed also highly valued cocoa beans, using them for both food and drink.

The Aztecs, in particular, had a special reverence for chocolate, believing that it was a gift from their god Quetzalcoatl. Chocolate was even used as a form of currency or given as gifts to high-ranking officials. And it was consumed during important ceremonies, such as weddings and religious rituals. Unlike present day, in that time the beans were ground into a paste and mixed with water, spices, and sometimes honey or chili peppers to make a bitter, frothy beverage called xocolātl, (bitter drink).

The cacao tree, also known as Theobroma cacao, is a small evergreen tree native to the tropical regions of Central and South America. The tree grows to a height of around 32-48 feet or (10-15 meters) and has large, glossy leaves that can measure up to about 12 inches (30cm) in length. It produces fruit in the form of large pods that can grow up to 12 inches (30cm) long and 6 inches (15cm) wide (shaped like football ball). When they are ripe they have bright yellow, orange and red colors. These pods contain seeds, or cocoa beans, which are used to make chocolate and other cocoa products. Each pod contains around 30-40 cocoa beans, which are embedded in a white, pulpy substance.

Cacao trees are delicate and require specific growing conditions to thrive, including warm temperatures between 64-89°F, high humidity, and well-draining soil. They also require plenty of water and do not tolerate drought conditions. Because of these requirements, cacao is primarily grown in tropical regions, between 10 to 20 degrees north or south of equator, such as West Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam, Caribbean, Central and South America. They are often grown on small family farms and harvested by

hand. The cultivation of cocoa is an important source of income for many communities around the world.

When Spanish conquistadores arrived in Mesoamerica in the 16th century, they adopted the word xocolātl. But, because it was difficult for them to say, they changed the name to chocolate. They brought cocoa beans back to Europe, where the drink became popular among the wealthy and elite. Sugar was eventually added to the drink to make it more palatable, and this paved the way for the creation of modern chocolate as we know it today.

The first solid chocolate bar was created in 1847 by Joseph Fry, a British chocolatier. The invention of the conching machine in 1879 by Swiss chocolatier Rodolphe Lindt allowed for the production of smoother, creamier chocolate with a longer shelf life. This led to the mass production of chocolate bars and the growth of the modern chocolate industry.

Today, chocolate is enjoyed all over the world in a variety of forms - candy bars, truffles, hot chocolate, cakes, ice creams and more. We are honored at Chocotenango to continue this long tradition and history today!

  • Writer's pictureIsmael Neggaz

First off, congratulations Adam Sandler for winning the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor! Watching the ceremony that took place at the Kennedy Center back in March, it was hard not to be infected with the clearly deep respect and love surrounding the comedian. Artists who paid tribute to him - and bear with me, this become relevant later - included Chris Rock, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Steve Buscemi, Judd Apatow, Conan O'Brien, Dana Carvey, Tim Herlihy, Tim Meadows, Idina Menzel, Rob Schneider, David Spade, Ben Stiller and our favorite Luis Guzman (look him up, he is the most prolific actor you have all seen but may not know you have seen).

So, what does this have to do with Chocotenango? We were thrilled that Chocotenango chocolates were selected as a part of the official gift bags for the Prize. While we may never know whether these icons enjoyed, or even actually ate, our chocolates, we are honored to have been chosen to share our creations with each and every one of the artists and VIPs at the event!

  • Writer's pictureIsmael Neggaz

Chocolate is undoubtedly one of the most beloved treats around the world. This sweet indulgence has been enjoyed by people for centuries, and for good reason. Not only is chocolate delicious, but it also has some incredible health benefits!

First and foremost, chocolate is loaded with antioxidants. These compounds help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can lead to chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer's disease. Dark chocolate, in particular, is an excellent source of antioxidants and has been shown to have a higher antioxidant capacity than many other foods, including blueberries and acai berries.

In addition to antioxidants, chocolate also contains flavanols, which are a type of plant compound that has been linked to numerous health benefits. Flavanols can help improve blood flow and reduce inflammation, which can have a positive impact on heart health. In fact, several studies have found that eating chocolate on a regular basis may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Another health benefit of chocolate is its ability to improve brain function. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which are both stimulants that can help improve alertness and concentration. Additionally, chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which is a compound that has been shown to have mood-enhancing effects.

But perhaps the most surprising health benefit of chocolate is its ability to help with weight loss. While it may seem counterintuitive, several studies have found that eating chocolate on a regular basis may actually help you lose weight. This is because chocolate contains a type of fat called stearic acid, which has been shown to have a neutral effect on cholesterol levels and may even help reduce inflammation in the body.

Of course, it's important to remember that not all chocolate is created equal. While dark chocolate is the healthiest type of chocolate, with the highest concentration of antioxidants and flavanols, milk chocolate and white chocolate contain significantly less of these beneficial compounds. Additionally, chocolate is still high in calories and sugar, so it's important to enjoy it in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

In conclusion, chocolate is not only a delicious treat but also a surprisingly healthy one. From its antioxidant content to its ability to improve heart health, brain function, and even aid in weight loss, there are plenty of reasons to indulge in a piece of chocolate every now and then. So go ahead and treat yourself – your body (and your taste buds) will thank you.

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