Chocolate in Europe

Chocolate in Europe
Chocolate in Spain

Chocolate has been around in Europe for over 400 year. In 1519 the Spanish reached the Aztec capital and saw King Moctezuma being served over 50 jars of chocolate. The Spanish learned about the value of the cacao beans in the Yucatan and Mexico. Hernandes Cortez found huge caches of the beans in the palace of Montezuma II who was served the drink in gold goblets.

In 1525 the Spanish planted cacao trees in Trinidad and later in Venezuela. They took cacao to Spain where the chocolate drink was known as chocolatl. They pretty much maintained a monopoly on European chocolate for the next 75 years or so. This became the favorite drink of the Spanish people. By 1590 chocolate was widely used by Spanish women and men. They created swizzle sticks to produce the froth. They also added other flavorings such as sugar, anise, cinnamon, and ground sapote seeds.

In 1544 the future Philip II of Spain received chocolate from Mayan dignitaries visiting Spain. The first commercial shipment of cacao beans to Spain went to Seville in 1585.

Chocolate in the Rest of Europe

In Europe chocolate was largely restricted to the wealthy since it was very expensive. This was introduced to Italy about 1600 or so. Later it reached France and other parts of Europe as well as England. As a result the chocolate houses became very popular in Europe. On the European continent chocolate was often valued for its medicinal properties.

In Italy chocolate was used widely in the late 1600s. They added it to various culinary dishes, such as ice cream. In 1644 a Roman physician described and recommended chocolate. Apparently the drink initially arrived in Florence. It was enjoyed by Cosimo III de Medici. The Grand Duke’s physician experimented by adding other spices, such as jasmine, citrus peels, musk, and ambergris.

Chocolate reached France in the early 17th century, around 1660. It reached the Versailles court around 1670. Louis XIV’s wife Marie Theresa gave him chocolate as a wedding present. The first Royal Chocolate Maker (Debauve) was appointed in France. The French used chile peppers in hot cocoa in the late 18th century. They also added vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon. French cooks used chocolate for pastries and confections.

Although most Europeans used chocolate for sweet dishes, this was also added to savory dishes. Some Italians began using it for meat pies and the like. The Spanish prepared savory dishes with the chocolate as well.

The chocolate drink was improved by Europeans. In 1828 C.J. Houten patented a method of removing two-thirds of the fat from the chocolate paste or chocolate liquor. The leftover residue was called cocoa. Van Houten also introduced a method of alkalizing the cocoa to get a milder tasting product. Later confectioners learned to use the fat for milk chocolate.

In 1875 milk chocolate was introduced by Daniel Peter of Switzerland. He experimented for 8 years to come up with the right formula, which included using Nestle milk. Several other Swiss inventors also introduced several improvements to chocolate, including Rodolph Lindt.

In some letters written to his family Chopin wrote about his daily life, including the hot chocolate he drank every day. His letters are now on display at the Chopin Museum in Warsaw.

Chocolate was added to rations for the troops during World War I. Eventually after this period the price of cacao came down enough that it ceased being a treat for the wealthy.

The Spanish introduced cacao trees to the Philippines in 1670. The Dutch introduced the plants to Indonesia and Ceylon. Germans took cacao plants to the Pacific, including Samoa, and New Guinea. The Dutch also took the trees to parts of Africa. From that point an African introduced the trees to other parts of the African continent. West Africa ultimately became the leading producer.

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This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.