This day in history was the first time chocolate was introduced to Europe in 1550. At the time, it was much different than what we have come to love in recent years.
The ancient Mayans, near present day southern Mexico and northern Central America, were actually the first society to have grown cacao, around 250-900 AD. People took the tree from the rain forest and harvested it, roasting and grinding the seeds into a paste, which they mixed with water, chili peppers, cornmeal, and other ingredients to make a frothy and spicy chocolate drink. No, they didn’t call it “hot chocolate.”
The Aztecs, around 1400, also took to this spicy drink, but made it available almost exclusively to only high members of society like rulers and soldiers. In both societies, however, chocolate was involved in religious and royal ceremonies.
In 1521, Europe had its first taste of chocolate through Spain, who discovered it via the Aztec culture. They then began shipping the cacao seeds back home. The drink remained a high-status beverage, as the cacao seeds were a very expensive import. The Spanish sweetened the drink with cinnamon and sugar, and after that, this new sweetened chocolate drink swept across Europe and became extremely popular. It wasn’t until the 1800s, however, that chocolate was made available and affordable to the general public by mass production.
Yum! So don’t you think it’s interesting that two different cultures had such a different takes on the same drink? The Aztecs and Mayans produced a much different drink than what the Europeans created!