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The True History of Chocolate Hardcover – May 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 1St Edition edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500016933
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500016930
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,024,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Coes, both anthropologists with a culinary bent, delve deeply into the history of their mouth-watering subject. The material on ancient cultures is particularly fascinating--did you know that the Maya used unsweetened liquid chocolate as currency? And in a chapter called "Chocolate for the Masses," they detail the modernization of chocolate manufacture, which has allowed more than 25 million Hershey's Kisses to roll off the conveyor belt each day.

From Booklist

The Coes' examination of the history of the "food of the Gods" is a delight that can be enjoyed on several levels. Historians should find the interaction between economic factors and the power relations in meso-America fascinating. Anthropologists can immerse themselves in the ample information illustrating how entire cultures were shaped and modified by the expanding value of the cacao plant. Finally, those interested in food science should find the extensive descriptions of chocolate production, from growth to refinement to delivery, to be both informative and thought provoking. The Coes are well prepared to write such a definitive history; the late Sophie had both a culinary and an anthropological background, while Michael has written extensively on pre-Colombian civilizations. The result is a superbly written, charming, and surprisingly engrossing chronicle of a food and how its development has touched the lives of cultures around the world. Jay Freeman

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Customer Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this book and I think any chocolate lover would also.
Victoria Watson
I definitely recommend this book to chocolate connoisseurs, history-buffs, and chocoholics alike.
Rachel O.
Sophie and Michael Coe have written a emminently readable history of chocolate.
Brenda Jo Mengeling

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Brenda Jo Mengeling on June 25, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sophie and Michael Coe have written a emminently readable history of chocolate. They emphasize the origins of cacoa in the New World, and the Spanish conquerors' response to their "discovery" of cacoa. The story fascinates, and I liked how the authors presented all the options when historical records were scarce or contradictory. The text is interspersed with clarifying illustrations, some are in color. The 19th and 20th centuries are covered in brief. The book ends with the resurgence in deluxe chocolates that use the rarer yet better tasting cacoa beans, and explains why these chocolates are so much better tasting than the supermarket candy bar. All in all, an excellent read.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By chronic_student on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book was an extremely readable examination of the history of chocolate, starting with the ancient MesoAmericans and ending with contemporary European and American chocolate makers. Anyone interested in the history and development of their favorite confection or beverage should read this book - it's written engagingly in the first half, and then peters out just a tad towards the end. I wished for more about the modern chocolate industry, and a little more about the current manufacturing spike in fine chocolates. But as an anthropological study revolving around the development of chocolate, I could ask for nothing more. Coe and Coe have inspired a chocolate tasting party and an academic interest in a gastrologic subject.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Cuevas De Caissie on February 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Story book style of delivery made this book enjoyable for the entire family. This book was packed full of information yet the manner in which it is written made it enjoyable to read as well as retain. Very informative and interesting as well as fun.
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70 of 90 people found the following review helpful By BookJunkie on January 8, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The bulk of the research, and most of the first three chapters of this academic book, were written by Sophie Coe before her sudden death from cancer in 1993. Her husband, Michael, undertook to complete the book as a sort of monument to his wife. It is a shame that Sophie Coe didn't write the whole book.

Michael Coe has taken a book about the history of Theobroma cacao (the chocolate plant) and turned it into an apology for the Aztecs and a bitter diatribe against Spain and, more diffusely, against Europeans in general, and against those benighted slobs who eat chocolate with less than 70% cacao. In the process, he commits many gross errors in scholarship that are severe enough that the critical reader begins to distrust him.

I developed a fascination with the Aztec and the Maya as a very young child and remember reading books about them in the very early 1970's. Even then, European and American scholars recognized that Aztec human sacrifice -- even the sacrifice of little children to Tlaloc in the cornfields -- wasn't carried out in a mood of sadistic glee, but because according to Aztec theology the gods and the sun needed blood in order to live or the universe would be destroyed. Aztec society was highly literate and they were supreme bureacrats, and they themselves documented tens of thousands of human sacrifices. They also documented the extent that royalty had to let their own blood by pulling spiked cords through their lips, and the fact that wars were carried out for the sole purpose of capturing prisoners so that priests could sacrifice them. One does not need to minimize anything about Aztec theology in order to condemn the Spaniards for dehumanizing the Aztecs.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rachel O. on August 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book went beyond my expectations by presenting the history of chocolate in an unbiased, academic yet readable format. A far cry from high school history textbooks, the authors enchant the reader with stories and historical tid-bits while maintaining a cohesive whole. I definitely recommend this book to chocolate connoisseurs, history-buffs, and chocoholics alike.
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68 of 93 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
"The ultimate origin of processed chocolate, though, seems to lie with the Olmec of the lowland forests of southern Mexico, some three millennia in the past, as shall be seen in Chapter Two." pg. 13

When reading another book called: "Food: A Culinary History," we find information on Chocolate telling of how chocolate was "discovered." They basically explain how the Spanish discover chocolate when they colonized the New World and explain how the Aztecs had used chocolate in their rituals.

Which rituals? (You will be shocked)
Who actually first discovered the Theobroma cacao plant/tree or learned how to use the beans (they look a lot like giant almonds in the picture) in the pods (look like an elongated squash) growing directly from the tree trunk? (It wasn't the Aztecs)
Do ungerminated beans have the same flavor as germinated beans?

The story of chocolate is extremely detailed. This book traces the discovery of chocolate from it's earliest pre-Columbian roots to modern times. The way we serve chocolate today almost seems primitive when you read how many ways the Aztecs made their chocolate drinks.

Honeyed Chocolate
Flowered Chocolate
Green Vanilla Flavored Chocolate
Bright Red Chocolate

It is amazing how this book came together as it has, because Sophie D. Coe was diagnosed with cancer before the book was completed. Her husband, Michael D. Coe, took on the responsibility of literally thousands of pages of notes and finished a book she started.

The authors spent hundreds of hours tracing down all possible references to chocolate in Libraries in America and Europe. They also searched in 400-year-old books in the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome.

The story of Chocolate is amazing.
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