Pronounced shock-WA-tel, the Mayan word for chocolate. It means bitter water. The original chocolate beverage was an unsweetened drink mixed with maize and flavored with pepper and other savory spices. The word “cacao” originated with the Olmec peoples who occupied the lowland regions of the eastern Mexican gulf coast; originally pronounced kakawa, “cacao” derived from the Mixe-Zoquean family of languages spoken by the Olmec, and was probably in use by 1000 B.C.* The Olmec shared their knowledge of cacao with the adjacent Mayans. The Nahuatl (Aztec language) term cacahuatl for cacao was concocted from the Mayan word. See chocolate for the etymology of the word.

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