Why Didn't Europeans Begin Eating Chocolate Until the 1500s?

July 16, 2023
David Sunnyside

Chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world. It is found in candy bars, cake, ice cream, and many other products. Most people enjoy eating it and most are unaware of the interesting history behind this sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet treat.

In pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, the Aztecs drank a bitter drink made from ground cacao seeds called xocolatl as part of important ritual ceremonies like marriage and fertility ceremonies. They believed that consuming it would bring them closer to the sacred realm. This belief may have been due to the stimulant properties of the drink as evidenced by its caffeine and theobromine content.

After Hernando Cortes’ conquest of the Aztecs, European explorers began to ship cocoa beans back to Europe where they were eaten as a luxurious beverage by the upper classes. They also added sugar to the brew to help mask its natural bitterness. This is how chocolate became the sweet treat we know today.

Over the next 300 years, chocolate drinking spread to other European countries where it eventually became a popular beverage for a much larger population than it had been restricted to within the Spanish empire. The English, Dutch, and French colonized cacao-growing lands near the equator and kept up their supply of cocoa to keep chocolate drinking a high fashion among the upper class.

Today, we consume more chocolate than ever before in a variety of forms. In fact, it is believed that 90% of Americans are chocoholics! Scientists have recently discovered that dark chocolate contains flavanols which improve blood circulation and can actually prevent heart disease. It is also claimed that it can relieve stress, boost energy, and reduce the risk of dementia.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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