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Chocolate through the years

The story of chocolate began with the discovery of America. Till 1492, world knew nothing at all about the delicious and stimulating flavour that has today become the favourite of millions. You guessed it; we are talking about chocolates.

Spain was the first to get the whiff of it. The court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had their first tryst with the principal ingredient of chocolate when Columbus returned triumphantly from America and laid before the Spanish throne a treasure trove of strange and wonderful things. Among these were a few dark brown beans that looked most unpromising. They were cocoa beans, the source of all chocolates. The King and Queen did not realize the potential of these modest-looking beans and it fell on Hernando Cortez, the great Spanish explorer, to exploit the edible possibilities of these beans.

Cortez's Discovery

On his conquest of Mexico, Cortez found that the Aztec Indians were already using cocoa beans to prepare a royal drink called, "Chocolatl", meaning warm liquid. In 1519, Emperor Montezuma, who reportedly drank 50 portions daily, served Chocolatl to his Spanish guests in great golden goblets.

However, Montezuma's Chocolatl was too bitter for the Spanish palette. To make the concoction more agreeable to Europeans, Cortez and his countrymen conceived the idea of sweetening it with cane sugar. He took the new improved upon Chocolatl back to Spain. The sweetened version found favour with the Spaniards; the drink underwent further changes with newly discovered spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. It was thought that the drink would taste better if served hot and sure enough it gained universal acceptance.

This new drink quickly won loyalists, especially among the Spanish upper classes.During olden days beans of cocoa were used as currency in Mexico and only the rich could afford to literally drink up their wealth in chocolate beverages. Spain wisely proceeded to plant cocoa in its overseas colonies mainly in Venezuela and Jamaica, which gave birth to a very profitable business. Remarkably enough, the Spaniards succeeded in keeping the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the rest of the Europe for nearly a hundred years.


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