History of Cacao 6, the first European encounter Cacao

Hello my fellow chocolate lovers,


I am Takanori Chiwata, the chocolate engineer of COCONAMA CHOCOLATE.


We discussed the relationship between cacao and Ancient MesoAmerican Civilization to the Aztec civilization.


The chocolate was noble’s delicacy, and cacao played many roles including offering in sacred ritual, currency, and an energy booster for the soldiers. Weren’t they all quite interesting?


In this post, the cacao finally takes off to its international journey!


The very first European to encounter cacao was the famous Christopher Columbus. Columbus sailed to American Continent four times during the 10 years span. In 1502 on his last navigation, his ship was hit by a hurricane,and ended up on Guanaja Island which was approximately 50km off to the bay of Honduras. By the Island, he captured a large trade ship of the Mayans. On the record, it shows that he found many trade goods including corn, cassava, other food items, alcohol made from corn, and “almond”. What he recorded as “almond” was actually cacao, they are very similar in size so no wonder he mistook cacao as almond.


Seeing the locals pick up this “almond” in a rush when it spilled, I think Columbus had a good idea of how special this good was to them. However, Columbus never actually had the chance to try chocolate himself, and passed away in Spain 4 years later.


Fast forwarding to Yucatan Peninsula in 1517 and Mexico in 1519, the Spanish conquest took place. By this time, the Spanish knew the worth of cacao and it didn’t take long for them to take advantage of that. Following the Mayan and Aztec civilization, cacao was used as a currency in New Spanish Colony on American continent.


Well, what did the Spanish think of the cacao drink? It seems like they just couldn’t get used to it seeing the records they left…


“I believe ‘Chocolate’ is a drink more suitable for pigs than any human. It’s been over a year since I came to this country, but not once have I been willing to try that drink. Everytime I pass by a village, the Indians offer this drink to me and I leave them with astonishment as I refuse it. As I missed the taste of a wine I drank this without a choice. It tasted a little bitter and seemed nutritious, but I was never able to get drunk on this ”.


Well, that was rather harsh… They also mentioned that seeing Indians drink chocolate with Achiote left them in disgust, because the red beard the drink left reminded them of blood.


It was not just the cacao that Spanish disliked. They didn’t seem to favour corn and other herbs as well. They brought over cows, sheeps,pigs, and chickens from their mother land, and made them from wheat, chickpea, peach, and oranges as well. Not to forget, sugar canes as well. Yes, they just couldn’t live without sugar in their lives.


However, Spanish gradually started to adapt to their diet and got enchanted by chocolate. Just like any other events, women lead the acceptance of chocolate.


As the time passed, the intermarriage between the Spanish and the MesoAmerican progressed. Especially when the Spanish men married to MesoAmrican women or took them as a mistress or a slave, she would be in charge of the kitchen of that household. As this continued, more and more dishes from MesoAmrican culture started to appear on Spanish dinner tables.


In 1538, when there was huge festival held at the central square of Mexico city , chocolate was served in a golden cup with stem along with sugar, wine, and other sweets,


They slowly accepted chocolate into their diet, and following could be the possible reasons.


  1. They started drinking chocolate luke warm or at room temperature.
  2. It became natural to add sugar to it.
  3. They seasoned the drink with spices that were familiar to Spain, such as cinnamon, anis, and black pepper.
  4. They mixed it with a special whisk for foam, which made it seem a bit more cool.



This is how chocolate enchanted the Spanish crews in Meso America, but how did the people back in Spain react to chocolate?



Better save the fun for later, see you all on our next post!


With hopes that you will be able to encounter the perfect chocolate just for you,


Takanori Chiwata