2002 - The Start of My "TRUE" Adventures in Cacao/Chocolate
Updated: Apr 5, 2018
In early 2002, the Chicago Field Museum launched a new exhibit that would later travel the USA on the all-important vegetable, dessert, and mineral - CACAO (Chocolate). I was hooked. This is where my more formal quest for knowledge and experiences related to cacao & chocolate really began.
The Chocolate exhibit focused on several areas: the rainforest, the Maya, the Aztec, Europe, manufacturing and a global commodity. The rainforest is where all cacao (chocolate) starts. The exhibit then went into the details of the uniqueness of the cacao tree, how and where it grows, and what part actually makes the cacao seed that later leads to the delicious result of chocolate. The Maya and Aztec are credited with the early uses of the cacao seeds that have been documented as both currency and a spicy drink. Both believed that cacao/chocolate had divine origins but both noble and common individuals consumed this chocolate. The exhibit included information on Europe where chocolate was only afforded for wealthy homes or chocolate houses. Next was the manufacturing process where you could see the variety of changes that cacao/chocolate went through to end up in the way we see chocolate today. Chocolate also played a role in both diplomacy and military history. The Global Commodity section spoke of the transformation from a product of the ancient Mayans to the mass world market today. It also reminded us that the cacao tree only grows in a very limited geographical area and that we all need to remember to protect all limited natural resources, especially when they produce so many divine desserts, candies, drinks and more.
The exhibit answered many questions about cacao/chocolate.
What is the anatomy of a cacao tree and how is it cultivated?
How is cacao harvested and fermented?
How does cacao change over time?
Who grows chocolate and how does it affect their lives?
How did the Maya and Aztec use chocolate?
How did the Europeans use and influence the development of chocolate?
How is chocolate manufactured?
How has chocolate changed through the ages?
How did the technological advances of the past century affect the use and development of chocolate?
The exhibit also had a variety of speakers that provided additional insight into the history, knowledge and expertise of cacao. I heard several speakers but the one that still stands out is hearing a lecture from Ms. Joël Glenn Brenner author of The Emperors of Chocolate: Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars. I recommend the book as well. It is a great history lesson on the American business of chocolate, but also mystery and intrigue.
As we all continue our journey with cacao, here is the link to the cities the Exhibit is traveling to next…… be the next to see the world of Chocolate Exhibit.
Enjoy your next adventure with chocolate!