The Evolution of Chocolate in Europe

When we think of chocolate today, we think of the sweet treat we can get at almost any convenience store at a very low price. The truth is that Chocolate is so widely available and comes in so many different shapes and tastes that is easy to forget how important and how exclusive this product once was. The tradition and the idea of chocolate is a very important aspect of its history particularly in Europe where it was adopted as something very expensive and rare eventually ending up in how we consume it today.

The first documentation of chocolate in Europe appeared in Spain in 1544, but it was not until 40 years later that the first shipment of Cacao bean reached Europe. When conquistadores like the Spanish Herman Cortes returned to Spain with chocolate, it was consumed in liquid form and the taste was very bitter. In order to counteract this bitterness, the Spanish added sugar or honey to make it sweeter.

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This picture shows the first chocolate makers in Spain making the famous drink. Chocolate was considered an essential part of a diet for the upper class. They believed the drink had many health benefits and so it was consumed for taste, health and energy. Spanish people were even allowed to consume it during lent as it was considered a necessary beverage.

That being said, one thing that remained the same in chocolate in the New World versus Europe was who was able to purchase and consume it. In Spain, only the royals and the Spanish elite drank the chocolate drink because of how much it cost to import it. Spain kept chocolate somewhat of a secret for nearly a century before it was introduced to France when Louis the XIII newly wed wife brought chocolate with her to France. Needless to say, chocolate quickly became popular to the point where people were making claims about its many health benefits that it had. Similarly to the previous places chocolate was introduced, only the elite was able to afford the product.

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In this picture we see members of the French elite enjoying chocolate.

Following it popularization in France chocolate discovery moved to Britain who opened their first chocolate houses in 1657. The English also believed in chocolates health benefits so much so that they believed it to be a cure-all medicine capable of treating tuberculosis. A century later, when more efficient technologies for making chocolate came about, chocolate began to assume a solid form. It was also the start to a time where chocolate was more readily available to less wealthy and high-class people.

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This is a picture of a man working in a chocolate refinery. It was technologies like these that helped chocolate spread to lower income classes. A French man by the name of Dubuisson created the steam driven chocolate mill which helped in mass producing chocolate quickly and cost efficiently.

 

Sources:

Bensen, Amanda (March 1, 2008). “A Brief History of Chocolate”.Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 3 March 2014.

http://www.godivachocolates.co.uk/the-history-of-chocolate-europe.html

http://www.history.com/news/hungry-history/the-sweet-history-of-chocolate

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