The cacao tree originated in the tropics of the Americas and was cultivated by the Mayan people from the first millennium BCE, though continued to grow wild for a very long time. The fruit of this tropical tree is known as a pod and contains between thirty and forty cocoa beans covered in a white pulp. Cocoa paste, the basic ingredient used to make chocolate, is made by fermenting cocoa beans, thus eliminating the pulp and allowing the development of aroma precursors. The beans are then dried and transported to where they will be transformed. Once roasted and with their skin removed, they are crushed to obtain cocoa nibs that are then pressed into a cocoa mass, the basis for the preparation of chocolate in its final form.
Even before the Aztecs, the Mayans prepared frothy drinks using cocoa paste cooked in water. They added various ingredients such as fruit, cornmeal, spices and very often chilli. This high-energy drink was consumed by soldiers, the elite, the emperor and priests. It was also given as an offering to the gods.