Brother, Can You Spare a Bean?
I guess we should file this under Chocolate Trivia. Did you know (I didn’t until a minute ago) that the cacao bean was once used as money? Yep. In ancient Mesoamerica – from what is now Mexico on down through to the northern part of South America – the cacao bean was once legal tender, so to speak. According to some sources, the beans were used in place of coins right up into the 1800s in parts of the Yucatan peninsula
Back in the day, 80 beans or so would buy you a hip and trendy cloth mantle. (About the same as today if you shop at Banana Republic.) A mantle, by the way, is a piece of clothing kind of like a cape. The sort of thing you might wear nowadays if you were the Pope. But hang on to your beans ’cause I hear they’re coming back in style.
The Aztec empire used to receive tributes (i.e taxes) to the sum of up to about 8 million cacao beans. The use of fake cacao beans by scammers was not unknown…