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Aztec man serving a cup of cocoa

History of chocolate: an Aztec man serving a cup of cacao

Chocolate and Europeans

When Spanish invaders came to the court of the Aztec ruler Montezuma in 1519, Montezuma naturally served them chocolate in gold cups. The Spanish soldiers didn’t like chocolate very much, but they drank it to be polite.

Where does chocolate come from?
Who were the Aztec?
All our Central America articles

Taking chocolate to Europe

When they realized that chocolate had caffeine in it like coffee, they thought maybe they could sell it back home in Spain, where coffee was the new big thing. Some Maya people travelled with the Spanish to Spain and brought samples of cacao beans with them.

Why were the Spanish invading?
Medieval ships and sailing
Who were the Maya?

A chocolate house in England (1700s)

A chocolate house in England (1700s)

Did Europeans like hot chocolate?

Sure enough, rich people in Europe loved chocolate drinks. People said chocolate was the food of love.

Adding sugar to chocolate

Europeans mostly drank chocolate hot, like coffee, and they added sugar, because sugar was also a new big thing and people were already adding sugar to their coffee.

History of coffee
Sugar and slavery

Chocolate milk and chocolate cake

By 1689, Hans Sloane in Jamaica thought of adding milk to chocolate, and with milk and sugar hot chocolate became more like the hot chocolate we drink today. In 1674, a coffeehouse in London began to mix chocolate with flour and eggs to bake the first chocolate cakes and cookies.

Jamaica and the Caribbean

But only rich people could have chocolate, or coffee, or sugar, or eggs – all these things were much too expensive for most people. And people thought chocolate was for grown men, like coffee – not for women and certainly not for kids.

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Mexican chocolate sauces

Meanwhile in Mexico, Spanish Christian nuns began to add cacao to traditional Aztec sauces (mole, from the Aztec word for “sauce”). Soon a lot of people in Mexico were making sauces with chocolate in them, often with chili peppers as well.

Where do chili peppers come from?
Christian nuns and convents
History of Mexico

More about Chocolate
Early History of Chocolate
Learn by Doing – Chocolate Mousse Project

Bibliography and further reading about chocolate:

Chocolate Mousse Recipe
Or a chocolate strawberries recipe
Chocolate Cake Recipe
Latin American food page home