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Where did the concept of money come from? How did chocolates come into being ?

Updated on April 14, 2011

We all have those things that we simply cannot do without. For each of us it may be something different. Two things in day to day life that I absolutely cannot do without are money and chocolates. Quite common articles but two things I am sure quite a few of us simply cannot do without. Ever wondered how money as we know it came to be? I am sure all of you have heard of the barter system long ago where goods and services were exchanged according to need. When did this whole concept of affixing a value for items come about. It has certainly changed all of our lives creating greater needs and aspirations, made things more complex.

Let’s take a look at what it was like before. A number of items were considered to be money in the past including beads, cowry shells, barley, precious metals and more. It would be quite a surprise to hear that the barter system we all learnt about as kids was in fact a rarity. There was no economy running on the concept of barter in the past, rather there would be an exchange of gifts that was customary between two nations or two strangers who may be looking to start a new friendship or signaling the beginning of a feud!

Gift economies could have been an altruistic method of ensuring that everyone had enough including the older members of a community who may not be able to hunt or forage for necessities. Anthropologists believe these gifts may have been given in return for status or other benefits. Money and value for goods and services as we know it emerged during the time of the Sumerian Civilization. It was the Babylonians who developed the earliest system of economics as we know it today. There were fixed fines or debts for wrong doings as well during that time around 2050 B.C. Way back in 4 B. C. Egyptians used gold bars of a fixed weight to develop a form of standardized money which was later followed by the Sumerians who began to use Silver bars.

Eventually it came to be that the value of the coin was taken in terms of its specie value rather than its physical weight. Just as much as money is important to our daily life, one thing I absolutely cannot imagine life without is Chocolate. Chocolates have been touted as being an aphrodisiac, heart healthy, feel good eats and also high on the calorimeter. It has even entered the realm of beauty as chocolate facials and spas have begun to spring up. In addition to all the hype about the infallibility of chocolate, alarming news that the world’s supply of sustainable cocoa may run out by 2014 has sent many of us chocolate lovers into a panic. Let's look at how chocolate came to be such a staple part of our lives.

Spicy frothing steamy drinks of cocoa were consumed by the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, made from roasted cocoa beans. It was considered a luxury drink. Did you know that the cocoa beans also had a curious history where they were considered as money at one time? In fact cocoa beans could buy you slaves, food and everything else and it was a Spanish conqueror who ruled over a part of Mexico brought about this concept of money being ‘cultivated’

Invasion by the Spaniards led to it spreading as they returned with galleons of cocoa beans and it was soon brewed as a drink for the rich Spanish folk. In 1606, the monopoly of the Spanish was broken when a traveler found the secret to brewing it while visiting Central America. Following its entry into Italian society, the magic of this wonderful food spread to the French court where it was considered an exotic drink with medicinal qualities as well. With the dawn of the industrial age, cocoa beans could be ground easily resulting in the drop of its price and also in it spreading wider and faster across America, London, Germany and Venezuela. 

Chocolate soon grew into a popular drink and also began to be used in cakes, cookies and also was made in a number of different flavors as the experiments continued till it became affordable and loved by all- both the rich and the commoners.


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