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The Legend of Chocolate: Origin Story and Hot Chocolate Recipe

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

This is my rendition of Quetzalcoatl that I completed in 2011.  I have since sold this painting, but I had started painting a series of the various gods in the Aztec pantheon.

This is my rendition of Quetzalcoatl that I completed in 2011. I have since sold this painting, but I had started painting a series of the various gods in the Aztec pantheon.

Where Do We Get Chocolate?

This story comes to us from present-day Mexico. It tells the legendary story of where chocolate came from, as well as some real facts about chocolate.

After the story, you’ll see a recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate.

The Toltecas in Mexico

Once, long ago, there lived a people called the Toltecas. They were related to the Aztecs. They were poor and hungry. Though they worked hard to find food, they didn’t know how to properly grow and cook it.

As the gods looked down upon them, they wondered what to do. The god Quetzalcoatl decided to descend to the earth and teach the Toltecas about food.

As the people looked eastward toward the rising sun, a flash appeared, and a little dot of light followed the rays of the morning star to the earth. Suddenly, the little dot of light transformed into a human.

At first, the Toltecas were fearful. But, they began to see that this was no ordinary human. He seemed to have special powers. He had abilities that others could only dream about. They began to worship this superhuman.

His Name Was Quetzalcoatl

Immediately, the Toltecas set to work, building a palace in the middle of their city, Tollan (now known as Tula). The house was grandiose: it had pillars with human-like carvings and a grand staircase, and the Toltecas used the best stone they could find.

This superhuman became known as Quetzalcoatl. He invited other gods to reign over the Toltecas, as well.

Tlaloc was the god of rain and also served as a creator of life.

Xochiquetzal was the wife of Tlaloc. She was the goddess of happiness and love and shared her knowledge of how to make pulque, a fermented drink from the maguey tree, with the Toltecas.

All three were good gods. They helped teach the Toltecas how to farm and make nutritious, healthy food. They showed them how to be artists and to study the stars. They also showed the people how to use the calendar and calculate the best times for seed plantings and harvests.

The Toltecas learned how to master the art of planting maize, beans, and yucca, as well as other fruits, vegetables and grains.

Unprocessed cacao beans.  Cacao beans are where we get cocoa.

Unprocessed cacao beans. Cacao beans are where we get cocoa.

Quetzalcoatl Brought Cacao to the People

Once the Toltecas had learned to be expert farmers, Quetzalcoatl wanted to give the people another gift: a cacao plant. He did not tell the people he had stolen this plant from his twin brother.

Quetzalcoatl knew that his brother only wanted this plant for himself and the other gods. All the gods in heaven felt that the people were not deserving of the drink from this special plant.

Quetzalcoatl did not feel this way. He swiped the tree when his brother wasn’t watching. It was so beautiful, with its small green leaves growing from its low-hanging branches.

Quetzalcoatl immediately planted the cacao in the earth. He asked Tlaloc to use his powers and send rain to the plant. Then he told Xochiquetzal to use her talents to adorn it with flowers. She picked beautiful, small red flowers that would complement the leaves. The field never looked more beautiful.

Once the tree fruited, Quetzalcoatl gathered the little pods. The seeds remained inside. He showed the people how to toast the seeds in the pods and then use gourds heavy with water to smash them.

Cacao Was Too Precious for Common Folk

At first, only the priests and nobles were allowed to consume the drink that resulted. It was very bitter. The people used the syrup from the buzzing bees to sweeten the flavor.

When the Spanish arrived in the Land of the Toltecas, they learned to drink this special liquid at a hot temperature with milk and sugar. Cacao started to become very precious. People began using it as money.

But then Quetzalcoatl’s brother found out what he had done. Though the Toltecas were prospering and doing well with what Quetzalcoatl had shared with them, the gods became very jealous. They swore they would avenge their honor.

The gods sought out Quetzalcoatl’s enemy, Texcatlipoca. While Quetzalcoatl was the god of light, Texcatlipoca was the god of darkness. Texcatlipoca decided to come to the earth disguised as a spider. He snuck into Quetzalcoatl’s palace unseen.

Quetzalcoatl had been tired and sad. He had a bad dream that the gods in heaven were going to take revenge on him. He also feared for the Toltecas, his people. What would the gods do to them? Right now, they are healthy and happy. Would they lose everything?

Would the People Lose Everything?

Texcatlipoca transformed himself into a merchant selling drinks of pulque. When Quetzalcoatl approached, he offered him some. It was the same kind of drink that Xochiquetzal taught the people to make.

As they toasted, Texcatlipoca told Quetzalcoatl, “may you forget your sorrows and live happily. You have been tired and sad. Take this drink so that you can return to happiness, as well as bring happiness to your people.”

Not knowing the merchant was a trickster, Quetzalcoatl took the drink. He drank until he didn’t feel like himself. This pleased Texcatlipoca, who was smiling in an evil way at Quetzalcoatl.

Almost immediately, Quetzalcoatl began to sing and dance loudly. His speech was slurred, and he acted very erratically. He danced and sang until he collapsed from exhaustion. The people watched in horror at this spectacle of their beloved Quetzalcoatl.

When Quetzalcoatl awakened, he realized he no longer reined over the Toltecas. He felt ashamed of his behavior. He had let his people down. He had let himself down. The people of Tollan were now enduring great hardships.

Quetzalcoatl was so embarrassed by his actions and the ensuing devastation of his lands. He quickly gathered his things and ran toward the evening star.

It pained him greatly to see the beautiful cacao plants, once so green and vibrant, now withered and dry. They wouldn’t produce any cacao seeds again!

Quetzalcoatl continued on his journey. As he got to the western beaches, he looked back from whence he came.

He cast a sad smile on the land and scattered a few remaining seeds of cacao onto the landscape. He had managed to save a few in his pocket from before he drank the pulque. This would be his last gift to the people.

Now the cacao plant grows in tropical areas and never in the mountains. This is because these were the last areas to see the footsteps of Quetzalcoatl, the one who insisted on bringing chocolate to the people.

Unsweetened chocolate - 100% cacao.

Unsweetened chocolate - 100% cacao.

Interesting Facts About Quetzalcoatl and Cacao

  • Quetzalcoatl had a twin brother.
  • Chocolate comes from cacao. The Aztec word for chocolate is xocoatl, from which we get the English word.
  • Cacao only grows in riparian zones, meaning it needs lots of rain and good soil. It likes to grow under the big leaves of banana or casaca trees.
  • Though many believe that chocolate originated in Mexico, evidence suggests that it actually comes from the Amazon basin originally.
  • Cacao only grows wild near the Amazon and Orinoco basins in the lowland rain forests. In cultivation, over 20 countries produce cacao trees whose seeds will eventually become cocoa powder or chocolate.
Mexican hot chocolate. Yum!

Mexican hot chocolate. Yum!

Recipe for Mexican Hot Chocolate

If all this reading about chocolate has made you crave this yummy treat, why not make some Mexican hot chocolate? It's perfect on a cloudy day, and with its sweet, creamy texture, your friends and family will beg for more!


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I used a Ghirardelli baking bar in the video)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 cups milk
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla


  1. In a large saucepan, add the milk, sugar, cinnamon and chocolate. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate melts.
  2. When the chocolate has melted, add the remaining 4 cups of milk. Stir constantly until hot.
  3. Remove one cup of the hot mixture using a ladle. Add the beaten eggs to the cup of hot mixture that you removed, and mix until thoroughly blended. Add the egg mixture back into the saucepan.
  4. Heat through. When hot, add the vanilla.
  5. As an optional step, you can beat the mixture with an electric blender to make it more frothy.
  6. Ladle into cups, top with whipped cream and add a cinnamon stick for an extra special touch.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun