Chocolate, long referred to in Belize as “the food of the gods”, is also known as the food of love, and features prominently during Chaa Creek’s Valentine’s Month of Love celebrations, according to the eco resort’s food and beverage manager Bryony Fleming.
“Chocolate is an iconic Belizean staple, having been grown, processed and consumed in Belize for thousands of years and known as ‘the food of the gods’, and people won’t be surprised to hear that chocolate’s reputation as the food of love also stretches back through history,” Ms Fleming said.
Although Mesoamerican people such as the Maya and Aztecs had been enjoying a beverage made from roasted cacao beans called xocoatl for millennia, it wasn’t brought to the attention of the rest of the world until after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s, who observed the Aztecs drinking chocolatl, a beverage they believed conferred wisdom.
When Hernando Cortes recorded in 1519 that Montezuma would down several goblets of the foamy chocolatl drink before entering his harem, chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac spread worldwide, and that legacy that is still alive and well in St Valentine’s Day gifts today.
Under King Charles of Spain the drink became fashionable among the rich as a medicine and love potion, and when the Dutch developed ways to economically mass produce chocolate in the mid-1700s the world embraced it, and lovers everywhere began exchanging coco-based presents.
Ms Fleming, who is also the Chaa Creek Spa manager, said she has researched cacao while developing the Spa’s popular chocolate spa treatments.
“Chocolate was becoming popular around the same time St Valentines was, back in the 1700s, and the two have been linked ever since. This may be a coincidence, but science has since shown that chocolate contains many different compounds, including a chemical that is said to stimulate a reaction in the brain that creates a sensation similar to falling in love, “Ms Fleming explained.
Ms Fleming said that today’s Maya of Belize still produce chocolate from the same strains developed by their ancestors thousands of years ago, and it has become the backbone of many Maya village economies and is a key ingredient for Belizean Valentine Day celebrations.
“I like to think that when lovers give each other chocolate, they’re carrying on a tradition thousands of years old here in Belize, and that’s certainly how we look at it at Chaa Creek. Our Valentines guests here don’t need to give flowers – they grow everywhere, but they can give chocolate, from pieces of Belizean organic chocolate, our special chocolate cocktails to sensuous chocolate treatments and body wraps at the spa, and that’s something we encourage.
“We don’t need science to tell us that love and chocolate are closely linked – we see it all the time during romance adventures here at Chaa Creek,” she said.