The Olmecs of the Gulf coast began mixing cacao beans into a bitter chocolate drink around three thousand years ago. By the time Cortés and the conquistadors reached New Spain in the early sixteenth century, the use of cacao had spread to the Aztecs, who consumed chocoatl cold and mixed with spices – this “drink of the gods” was said to be a favourite of Aztec emperor Moctezuma. Chocolate remains a popular drink in Mexico today (now with lots of added sugar), but its most distinctive use is in mole poblano, a thick sauce of chocolate and chiles that accompanies otherwise savoury dishes – particularly chicken. Though found all over the country, mole remains a speciality of Puebla in central Mexico, where the dish originated in the colonial era.
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