It’s not always grey in Seattle, and today was one of those perfect Seattle days. What a great opportunity to visit the new chocolate exhibit at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI).
You could spend the whole day wandering the different exhibits at MOHAI. Their new space at the southern tip of Lake Union is stunningly beautiful.
But the exhibit we’re looking for today is this one.
Upon entering the doors we were greeted by a strong aroma of chocolate and the sounds of the rain forest. A few young children commented on the piped-in aroma of chocolate and with the sounds of the rainforest it certainly set the stage.
Cacao trees are rather amazing trees. Originally from South America they’ve been imported to Africa, specifically the Ivory Coast, where most of the world’s cacao is now grown. The exhibit opens by honoring the tree and its complex ecosystems. Notice the pods grow out of the trunks of the trees above?
Then the exhibit tells the story of cacao’s gradually increasing importance to civilization, from the Mayan royalty but also enjoyed by the poor, to Spain where they started to add sugar, and then it’s place as a status symbol across Europe where it was combined with wine, eggs, and even bread.
Of particular interest was all the different pottery and fine china that developed around the culture of serving chocolate. Below on the left you can see what the Mayan Kings would drink from, and on the right is a tool that was used to give the cacao drink some froth.
There was another revolution of chocolate from 1850 to the early 1900s when chocolate became more accessible to all socioeconomic classes. In 1875 Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle crafted milk chocolate and changed the chocolate economy forever. Recognize any of these brands?
Marketing really took hold.
Now we have a global chocolate economy. It has its benefits, and it has its problems. Specifically, the farmers that grow the cacao may never actually taste chocolate. That’s an amazing thought. I’ll save the rest of the exhibit for you to go see.
But really cool is that we are included at the end as one of Seattle’s Artisan Chocolatiers, along with Fran's, Theo, Seattle Chocolate, and Dilettante. Talk about flattering company!
If you get the opportunity, go check out the exhibit. You might even get to see some ducks and geese like this little guy.