Humans’ love affair with chocolate began at least 4,000 years ago in Mesoamerica, in present-day southern Mexico and Central America, where cacao grew wild. When the Olmecs unlocked the secret of how to eat this bitter seed, they launched an enduring phenomenon. Since then, people around the world have turned to chocolate to cure sickness, appease gods, show love, buy rabbits, fete holidays, survive fasts, ward off scorpions and sustain warriors. In fact, the making of chocolate has evolved into an industry so large that 40 to 50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihoods—and chocolate farmers produce 3.8 million tons of cocoa beans per year.
Get a taste of this section:
- Past: Who has used cacao throughout the ages—and how?
- Present: Who still uses chocolate for medicine and rituals? And whose livelihoods are tied to this bean?