About Chocolate from Spain

January 2010

Spain is fanatical about its chocolate. Do you really think the Spanish explorers were looking for gold? Well they found it, black gold: delicious cocoa.

Before coffee became ubiquitous across Spain, chocolate was the drink of choice. It all started in 1544 when Dominican friars, accompanied by Mayans from Guatemala, presented containers of frothed chocolate to young Prince Philip, soon to be Philip II. He and his whole court were enchanted.

Soon any Spanish nobleman worth his salt renovated his home to feature a Chocolate Room - usually located between the Large Hall and the drawing room. There, as a man of leisure, he would spend hours in pleasant conversation with friends and political associates sipping at the luxurious drink.

Spaniards enjoyed large amounts of chocolate for the next hundred years, while the rest of Europe was unaware. Chocolate sweet shops called chocolaterias sprung up throughout Spain, and by the 19th Century one third of the world's entire Cacao production was consumed by Spaniards. Have you heard of the famous Belgian chocolates? The origins of this fame comes from when it was part of the Spanish Netherlands in the 18th century!

Spain is still a champion of chocolate, whether the fine bonbons to be found at gourmet confection shops, or the humble cup of thick, hot chocolate a la taza enjoyed in the morning with a crunchy churro pastry. They have a grand tradition of roasting cocoa beans and producing some of the world's finest chocolates.

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