Guess who discovered the greatness of chocolate and brought it to Europe? No, it was not Christopher Columbus! As great as he was on other accounts, with chocolate, he just missed the boat (pun intended). According to historic records, he encountered a Mayan trading ship loaded with cacao beans. Historians say that while Columbus understood that the Mayans placed high value on these beans, he failed to understand what they were for (consumption and at that time, currency).

Cocoa Beans

There's a quote of a Spanish sailor who was with Columbus, and who wrote "... these almonds seemed to be of great value to them, for when they were brought on board with the other goods, I noticed that as soon as one fell onto the ground they all bent down to pick it up, as if they had dropped an eye."

So only when Hernán Cortés conquered what is today Mexico did the first (known) European try the chocolate drink. It is actually not documented when the first cacao bean saw European soil, but it was probably not too long after. However, it took a while until it spread in Europe, as Spain kept it carefully inside the country and monopolized it. During the 17th century, chocolate spread to France and Italy, and soon became a preferred luxury beverage of nobility.

It took another three centuries and many inventions like the cacao press and conche until (solid!) chocolate became available to consumers. Aren't you glad you were born to be one of them?

p.s. If you enjoy hearing about the history of chocolate, check out our post on Chocolate Houses


  1. December 18, 2009 | Barbara said:
    interesting article. I would love to follow you on twitter.

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