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Monday, November 12, 2007

Science Update: Chocolate Owes Its Existence to Beer

Is there any amenity of civilization that can't be attributed to beer? Probably Not. Check this out:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chocolate enjoyed around the world today had its origins at least 3,100 years ago in Central America not as the sweet treat people now crave but as a celebratory beer-like beverage and status symbol, scientists said on Monday.

Researchers identified residue of a chemical compound that comes exclusively from the cacao plant -- the source of chocolate -- in pottery vessels dating from about 1100 BC in Puerto Escondido, Honduras.

One of the researchers, anthropologist John Henderson of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, said cacao beverages were being concocted far earlier than previously believed -- and it was a beer-like drink that started the chocolate craze.

"What we're seeing in this early village is a very early stage in which serving cacao at fancy occasions is one of the strategies that upwardly mobile families are using to establish themselves, to accumulate social prestige," Henderson said in a telephone interview.

The cacao brew consumed at the village of perhaps 200 to 300 people may have evolved into the chocolate beverage known from later in Mesoamerican history not by design but as "an accidental byproduct of some brewing," Henderson said.



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