Cocoa in Spain
Cocoa in Spain

Flavors of Spain

All About Chocolate > Cocoa in Spain - the first European country to taste cocoa

In 1529, Spanish caravels returning to Spain for the second time carried sacks of cocoa beans from Cortes's plantations, which had been given to him as a welcoming gift by Montezuma. Hernan Cortes sent with these beans the hot chocolate recipe perfected by the nuns of Oaxaca.

The cocoa beans were such an immediate success that soon many people were embarking on new careers as counterfeiters, creating painted fruit pits, colored beans, even little molded balls of mud!

In 1580 the first chocolate house opened in Spain. It was the place to go to chat and drink this thick creamy nectar accompanied by pastries, including churros, long star-shaped doughnuts rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Chocolate houses in Spain became what tea houses were in England.

Keep in mind that this was in the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, when the Jesuits controlled every facet of everyday life - so when Pedro Martin de Angelis began a controversy over whether hot chocolate should be forbidden during periods of fasting, he provoked a general outcry. Pope Pius II settled the question by declaring: Liquida non fragunt jejunum - That is, since hot chocolate is a drink and not a food, it does not break the fast.

Spanish Hot Chocolate in the time of the Conquistadores
Hot chocolate as drunk in Mexico did not appeal to Spanish tastes, and so it underwent a number of transformations. It was first mellowed with agave sugar, and the pepper and achiote omitted. The nuns of Oaxaca even added vanilla, orange flower and musk to please the palates of the conquistadores. In this form, chocolate crossed the Atlantic. Charles V created a state monopoly from it and the recipe became increasingly refined. Making a good Spanish hot chocolate was an art, since it was flavoured with many spices. The cocoa mass required many ingredients and a delicate hand to achieve a harmonious balance. Here is the recipe as recommended in the 17th century:

To every 100 roasted cocoa beans, ground and the oil removed, add

  • 12 crushed almonds and 12 hazelnuts
  • half a loaf of crushed sugar
  • a spoonful of honey
  • anise seeds
  • two grains of Mexican pepper or chili
  • six roses of Alexandria
  • a logwood pod
  • and two drams of cinnamon
Nowadays, Spanish hot chocolate is simply a good thick creamy hot chocolate, flavoured with cinnamon and served with churros.
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