What's in the Exhibit?
Where does chocolate come from? How is it made? And how has it sweet-talked its way into our hearts? Take a walk with us through the highlights of the exhibition Chocolate.
Enter the lush tropical rainforest and examine a replica of a cacao tree with its seed pods. Learn about the complex ecosystem that supports the healthy growth of the remarkable Theobroma cacao, the tiny midges that pollinate it, and the birds that make homes in its branches.
The Ancient Maya
See how sculpture and carved vessels, cacao seeds in dishes, and chemical residue in pots helped scientists trace the roots of chocolate to the ancient Maya, the first to turn the bitter seeds into a spicy drink for use in ceremonies and trade.
Cacao was the key to the vast empire of the Aztec people – as a luxury drink for the elite, an offering to the gods, payment to rulers, and money in the marketplace. An interactive Aztec marketplace shows visitors the purchasing power of a handful of beans. Find out what treasure Cortés discovered in the storerooms of Montezuma.
Chocolate Comes to Europe
The Spanish conquest of the Americas introduced chocolate to Europe. Learn what happened when chocolate first met sugar…and what really went on in the elite chocolate houses of Europe. See how the wealthiest consumers satisfied their chocolate cravings. And discover the human toll that was paid: enslaved peoples toiling on sugar and cacao plantations to meet the growing European demand.
Cacao seeds grow on trees, but chocolate bars have to be made, by hand or by machine. Take a look at the sweet side of the industrial revolution – the steady stream of new inventions and creative advertising that brought chocolate bars to the masses.
Chocolate as a Global Commodity
Who grows cacao? Which country consumes the most chocolate? Explore the relationship between growing, selling, and consuming cacao. Trace its ups and downs in the world market, and see how cacao is grown today. Witness how it’s harvested, prepared, and shipped. And find out what farmers are doing to preserve their crops, their income, and the rainforest.