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The True History of Chocolate

Sophie D. Coe, Michael D. Coe


A richly detailed and illustrated investigation into the story of the world’s favourite food


Chocolate – ‘the food of the Gods’ – has had a long and eventful history. Its story is expertly told here by the doyen of Maya studies, Michael Coe, and his late wife, Sophie. The book begins 3,000 years ago in the Mexican jungles and goes on to draw on aspects of archaeology, botany and socio-economics. Used as currency and traded by the Aztecs, chocolate arrived in Europe via the conquistadors, and was soon a favourite drink with aristocrats. By the 19th century and industrialization, chocolate became a food for the masses – until its revival in our own time as a luxury item.

This book features tantalising information on the first cultivation of the cacao tree in the northwest Amazon, and the discovery of the chocolate process in southern Mesoamerica, long before the rise of the Olmecs. Chocolate has also been giving up some of its secrets to modern neuroscientists, who have been investigating how flavour perception is mediated by the human brain. The book also contains two contemporary accounts of how chocolate manufacturers have (or have not) been dealing with the ethical side of the industry.

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'Begins with the origins of the cacao tree and follows the story up to today’s mass-produced chocolate candy and its expensive boutique counterparts ... A pleasure, not just for chocoholics but for anyone who enjoys lively, thorough historical sleuthing via the printed page'

'A beautifully written, indexed, and illustrated history of the Food of the Gods, from the Olmecs to present-day developments'

'Anyone who loves chocolate … will be riveted by its revelations'
Los Angeles Times

'Exceptionally interesting throughout'
Washington Post

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Further Details


Format: Paperback

Edition Type: Third edition

Size: 23.2 x 15.5 cm

Extent: 280 pp

Illustrations: 99

Publication date: 17 June 2013

ISBN: 9780500290682

Contents List

Preface • Introduction • Chapter One: The Tree of the Food of the Gods • Chapter Two: The Birth of Cacao: Olmec-Maya Genesis • Chapter Three: The Aztecs: People of the Fifth Sun • Chapter Four: Encounter and Transformation • Chapter Five: Chocolate Conquers Europe • Chapter Six: The Source

About the Author

Sophie D. Coe, an anthropologist and food historian, was the author of America’s First Cuisines.