History of Chocolate in Europe

For many years, chocolate remained a secret of the Americas as the Mayan and Aztec cultures enjoyed the fruits of the cocoa tree and supped away on cups of frothy chilli chocolate.

However, with the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors, life for these civilizations became a little more fraught. As cities were pillaged for their riches, the cocoa bean was discovered and taken on a voyage to Europe where it was introduced to high society.

The secrets of the cocoa bean and the processing of chocolate were quickly learned and the fame of this wonderful new delicacy swiftly spread throughout Spain. It was so popular that it became difficult to keep up with the demand, however, incredibly, cocoa remained largely a Spanish delicacy for almost 100 years, as the Spanish managed to keep one of the world’s best-kept secrets and enjoy chocolate all to themselves.

They also realized that by adding sugar to the ground cocoa, you could create a sweet drink. This was far more appealing to people than the bitter brew and it made chocolate one of the most sought-after and trends beverages of the age. Once again though, it was only the rich and famous who could afford it and the common folk missed out on yet another treat.

Eventually the secret got out and soon the chocolate buzz had spread all over Europe. As demand grew, plantations were created in the colonies and cocoa trees were planted and harvested on a massive scale to satisfy the sweet tooth of the European.

Chocolate in Aztec Culture

The mighty Aztecs reined supreme over vast tracts of Mesoamerica and cocoa can take at least some of the praise for the later success of this great civilization.

In these days before bank accounts and dollar bills, cocoa was actually used as a form of currency. I don’t think I would have been a particularly good banker if I’d been around in those days; I’d have eaten all the cash before it could be exchanged for anything else.

However, it seems I’m not the only one with a soft spot for chocolate. One of the Aztec Emperors of the time – Montezuma – was said to get through a fair few cups of chocolate every day.

Still, I suppose he had a ready enough supply of the stuff that he could keep a stash for his own consumption and still made a good profit with the remainder. Most people could only dream of enjoying chocolate as a luxury drink. The seeds were so valuable that they would have been used for trading. Still, I suppose an Emperor has to have a few perks.

Chocolate in those days wouldn’t be easily recognizable as the bars we enjoy today. It was mainly taken as a drink and, bearing in mind there wasn’t any sugar around, it was more of a bitter brew than the sweet beverage we think of today.

The cocoa seeds were roasted and ground to a powder that was made into a drink. They did add flavorings but these would have been spices such as pepper or chilli. It was even occasionally dyed a dark red color and used as part of rituals and special celebrations.