The Olmecs of southern Mexico were probably the first to ferment, roast, and grind cacao beans for drinks and gruels, possibly as early as 1500 B.C., said Hayes Lavis, a cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. “There is no written history for the Olmecs,” he said, but pots and vessels uncovered from this ancient civilization show traces of the cacao chemical theobromine.
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