Columbus brought a few cocoa beans back to Spain in 1492, but they failed to cause a stir – the dark brown, bitter beans seemed useless and were forgotten until the following century. In the early 16th century, the great Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez was travelling round Mexico when he discovered the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans to prepare ‘chocolatl’, their royal drink. The original chocolate was so bitter and unpalatable to Europeans that Cortez soon had the idea of adding cane sugar. The Spanish experimented with adding various spices, and eventually with heating the drink, producing something more similar to the hot chocolate we know today. The drink became so popular in Spain that the decision was made to plant cocoa plants in Spanish overseas territories to ensure a better supply. Amazingly, the Spanish managed to keep the secret of their wonder drink to themselves for almost a hundred years, and it didn’t spread to the rest of Europe until the 17th century.
It may seem incredible, but solid eating chocolate wasn’t commercially available until the mid-19th century, and milk chocolate is an even more recent newcoming, making its appearance in Switzerland at the end of the 19th century.
Today, drinking chocolate is still extremely popular for its comforting and even mood enhancing properties. It’s also a great way of warming up in cold weather or cheering yourself up on a rainy day. Modern hot chocolate is so simple to prepare, and just needs the addition of hot water. If you’d like to buy whole hot chocolate powder online for your catering business, restaurant or vending machine, please visit our coffee ingredients page for a great range to suit all tastes.