The Ancient Chocolate of Modica

Modica Spicy Chocolate

The south-easterModica Spicy Chocolaten Sicilian city of Modica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its stunning Baroque architecture.  Along with seven other towns in the Val di Noto, like Ragusa and Catania, Modica was rebuilt in 1693 following a powerful earthquake that devastated the area. The construction after the earthquake resulted in remarkable city planning and the culmination of Baroque style of art and architecture in Europe.  Though Modica is stunning and filled with beautiful architecture, this city tucked away in the Hyblaean Mountains is also internationally famous for a much sweeter reason: chocolate.

The distinctness of Modica’s chocolate is due to its granular texture and fragrant taste.  Modica’s chocolate-makers follow an ancient recipe whose origin dates back to the Aztec civilization.  The Aztecs named their chocolate Xocoàtl after Xochiquetzal, the goddess of fertility.  Xocoàtl was made by using a stone rolling pin to grind cocoa seeds onto a curved stone supported by a foundation of two other transversal stones.  The Aztecs then mixed spices into the resulting cocoa powder and it was worked until it reached a hardened stage.  When the Spaniards came to the “New World”, they adopted the Aztec way of making chocolate and ultimately introduced it to Sicily, specifically the county of Modica, during their period of rule over Sicily.

Because Modica’s chocolate was never mass-produced, its recipe has remained the same throughout the centuries.  Today, the chocolate in Modica is still made using only cocoa, sugar, and spices (butter, milk, vegetable fats, etc. are never added).  The modern process is quite similar to the original Aztec process. The cocoa is grinded to a certain point after which it is heated to a fluid state. Spices and sugar are then added using a refiner once the liquid has reached a set temperature.  Finally, the mixture is placed in molds and pounded into shape.  The taste of the chocolate depends upon which spices are added and a variety of flavors can be produced including vanilla, cinnamon, chili, and orange.

Should one be interested in experiencing this unique chocolate for himself or herself, it is important to mention that the city of Modica holds a yearly chocolate festival.  This year, ChocoModica takes place from December 5th to December 8th 2015.  The festival will feature a variety of events including chocolate tastings, workshops, children’s activities, and cultural and educational initiatives.

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