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History of Chocolate


The discovery of America brought not only gold and gems from the other side of the Atlantic, but other products unknown in Spain and Europe and that would one day become emblematic of the country and the continent's gastronomy. Potatoes and tomatoes for instance have become two of the main ingredients of most European countries. Heard of pizza or spaghetti bolognese without tomato sauce? Spanish tortilla without potatoes? Or Fleisch und Kartoffeln? (German meat and potatoes)


When we speak about chocolate we think about Belgium, Switzerland or France. But we tend to forget that it was the Spaniards that introduced cocoa. However we don't exactly know how it was brought exactly.

Some say it was Hernan Cortes himself who sent it so the emperor Charles V could taste it. Those who defend this theory may be right, since it was Cortes the first European to know about it from Moctezuma himself, the Aztec emperor the conquistador befriended. The aztecs called it xocolatl and it was widely consumed. However it is more likely that it was the scholars (clerics) that were with Cortes who realized cocoa's potential.

Chocolate in Spain, traditionally is consumed as a hot drink. The country became so addicted to it that the church and authorities "had" to intervene. Fortunately not very successfully, and this is why you can enjoy a delicious chocolate con churros!

Controversy in the Church

In the beginning chocolate in Spain was consumed as a medicine to cure organic weakness, but it wouldn't be long until it became almost an addiction throughout the country. In the 15th century it was recommended for constipation, however the recipe was much more complex than it is today (it included pepper, sometimes chili and other herbs and spices).

At the beginning of the 17th century chocolate's consumption was not for medical reasons anymore but because it was delicious. It's preparation changed as well as its purpose and it was simplified to cocoa, sugar and cinnamon or vanilla. However the people liked it too much for the church's taste and forbid churchgoers to take chocolate inside churches, convents and other houses of prayer.


Chocolate in Spain was consumed everywhere at any time and the authorities didn't like that either, in 1644 it was decreed that chocolate could not be sold as a drink anywhere, neither shops nor houses, so it could only be sold in tablets, forcing the people to make it at home and avoid drinking it in public spaces.

And so the troubles begin. The church decided to intervene but their own ranks were filled with chocolate drinkers. Why? Well, apart from the fact that people loved it, was the fact that the church itself had proclaimed chocolate as a drink for people devoted to studies and office tasks, with this description they had basically depicted themselves. On the other hand they had to fast for lent, and chocolate had proved to be a good hunger palliative. The Catholic church in Spain began an internal confrontation to get rid of the chocolate drinking habit. It's detractors claimed that drinking chocolate basically ruined the whole purpose of fast and sacrifice, since it was so nourishing it was practically food.

The argument was long and hard, in the end Pope Pious V decreed that chocolate was allowed (he was a great drinker himself), but some religious orders in Spain decided to ban the controversial product nonetheless.


Leaving the church aside, chocolate in Spain presented another problem: counterfeit.

The raw material was little expensive, everyone wanted it and opportunists decided to take advantage of this. There were some forgeries that were harmless, as all the products it contained were edible, such as flour or starch, orange peel and other very cheap ingredients in comparison.

Worse counterfeit chocolate included animal fat, oil, butter or even egg yolk, which become rancid after a certain period of time. But others actually added sawdust, marc powder and cocoa cortex. Bad, but still not as harmful as the worst ones that included cinnabar, red mercury sulfide and red lead dust or red ochre to give it color.

However this didn't only happen in Spain, but in most European countries.

Nowadays, of course, there's nothing to worry about and chocolate in Spain (and Europe) is no longer counterfeited and it's possible to enjoy at very modest prices.