When time and funding permit, each flower (each plant species) will have its own page, and its own PDF, and eventually its own PPT so that professors and students have plenty of material on Guatemala (and Honduras, etc) to study.

Heliconia adflexa, Coban, Guatemala, Hotel Monja Blanca, FLAAR, by Nicholas Hellmuth

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we have recently found and photographed.

Reports by FLAAR Mesoamerica
on Flora & Fauna of Parque Nacional Yaxha Nakum Naranjo
Peten, Guatemala, Central America

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Chile peppers were used in cacao (cocoa, chocolate) drinks by Maya of Guatemala but also by Aztec of Mexico?

Books on chile peppers of Mexico (of the Aztec) do not list Chile chocolate

In mid August 2014 I was in Mexico City to search for books on plants of Mexico, to aid my research on ethnobotany of Mesoamerica. I found two publications focused on chile of Mexico. Since I am interested in chile chocolate, I bought both publications and assumed I would find chile chocolate inside.

But there was no mention of cacao, and no listing for Chile chocolate in these two Mexican publications. Yet chile chocolate is found in most village markets in many areas of Guatemala, especially in Alta Verapaz area.

The absence of chile chocolate from two Mexican publications and the presence of chile chocolate in Guatemala raised the question of whether chile chocolate is more a Maya and a Guatemalan variety, and simply not an Aztec variety.

Even the Betty Crocker web site uses ancho chile pepper powder.

Or, perhaps there are similar chiles in Mexico, but they simply have different names? A company named Kakawa Chocolates uses Ancho Chili and Tree Chili (but the photos they show of their tree chili are very different in size, shape, and color than chile chocolate of Alta Verapaz).

One web site at least shows a chile of the correct size, shape, and color as real Chile chocolate: http://wildgreensandsardines.blogspot.mx/2013/01/mayan-chile-chocolate-elixir.html. But they list the following varieties:

  • Ancho
  • Guajillo
  • Chipotle
  • Piquin

I raise this question (whether in Mexico there is the same variety as chile chocolate in Guatemala, but simply with a different name), and hope that ethnobotanists in Mexico and specialists in plants and foods of Mexico can answer this question. I have checked book after book after book on “Chocolates of the entire world…” and almost none of them discuss Guatemala at all. Not one mentions chile chocolate (but several show chocolate colored bell peppers of Mexico).

We have a separate web page on books and articles on chile in general. Almost no book on chiles of the world has any mention of chile chocolate of Guatemala whatsoever.

What Mexican chiles are comparable size and shape as Chile chocolate in Guatemala?

“Chile chocolate” in Guatemala, is not merely any chile used with chocolate. Chile chocolate is a specific variety, size, shape, and taste (rather hot). We spent several years tracking down this chile until we understood how chiles were classified in local villages in Guatemala.

Now we have raised chile chocolate for two years. So we have a tad of familiarity with this kind of chile.

In the book, El placer del Chile (Long 1998:16 and 17) there are two lists of chiles; chile chocolate is missing from both. There are no illustrations of each variety.

The Mexican chiles are the ones that show similar characteristics as Guatemalan chile chocolate.

Chile Chocolate Recipes
Chile as flavoring for chocolate of prehispanic Mesoamerica is well known

Because most people drink “milk chocolate” or eat “chocolate bars” or other typical sugar-flavored chocolate candy, when we hear about chilli-flavored cacao, I definitely remember it. Over the many decades that I have studied Mesoamerica, I would say that the two things I remember about pre-Columbian cacao is coloring it red with achiote (annatto, Bixa orellana) and flavoring it with chile.

Achiote is one of the most commonly mentioned plants when you study the Q’eqchi Mayan people of Alta Verapaz.

It is unlikely that the Aztec or the Maya made chocolate brownies or chocolate cakes; most of their cacao was as a beverage.

More research is needed on “chile chocolate” of Guatemala (and Mexico!)

I need to find conquest-period documentation that the Aztec mixed chile with their cacao. Next step is to understand why the word “chile chocolate” only exists (or only is really common) in Guatemala. If the Aztec consistently drank chile-flavored cacao, why is this not common in Mexico still today.

Oaxaca is culturally distinct (and geographically), so chile flavored cacao in Oaxaca is not proof of chile flavored cacao among the Aztec.

The other potential source of confusion is mole, which is very Mexican (even if not prehispanic). So even if mole is a chile-chocolate concoction, this is very different.

For more images of chile chocolate of Guatemala we have an additional page.

Here is the link to our other page on chile chocolate.


Mature fruits of Chili chocolate with dry cacao seeds Photographed by Sofia Monzón in FLAAR studio. Date: January 2012


Plant of Chili chocolate Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in FLAAR studio. Date: November 2013

Achiote (Bixa orellana) from seed to paste the process of dye removal, Photo FLAAR Archive

Fruits of Chili chocolate in FLAAR garden. Photographed by Nicholas Hellmuth in FLAAR studio. Date: July 2013


First posted Aug. 29, 2014


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