Mesoamerica was the region extending from approximately Mexico to Honduras. It includes the modern-day countries of:
- El Salvador
Chocolate changed in many different ways throughout history. Today, we think of chocolate as a sweet dessert that we can eat after dinner. A long time ago, the Mesoamericans would have bitter chocolate drinks. During those times, the Mesoamericans did not think of chocolate as their favorite food. Chocolate represented their social and religious status. The ancient Maya grew cacao and made it into a beverage. The first people known to have discovered cacao were the Classic Period Maya (250-900 C.E. [A.D.]). The Maya and their ancestors in Mesoamerica took a tree from a rainforest and grew it in their own backyards. The Maya harvested the crops and then they roasted them. Those crops were fresh cacao beans. The Aztecs adopted cacao. By 1400, the Aztec empire ruled a part of Mesoamerica. The Aztecs traded with Maya and other people for cacao and often required that citizens and conquered people pay their tribute in cacao seeds which became a form of Aztec money. The Aztecs also had bitter chocolate drinks. The chocolate was bitter because sugar was not owned by the Mesoamericans during the time of when cacao was discovered. Drinking chocolate beverages was an important part of Maya and Aztec life. In the Mayan society, the royal people would drink the chocolate beverages during specials events while the "regular" people barely drank any because it was to expensive. In the Aztec society, rulers, priests, soldiers, and honored merchants were able to have chocolate beverages. Chocolate also played a special role in both Maya and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies.