History of Cacao 8 Italy
Hello my fellow chocolate lovers,
I am Takanori Chiwata, the chocolate engineer of COCONAMA CHOCOLATE.
In our last post, I shared how cacao spread to Spain from Mexico.
Now, what came after Spain?
It actually got to Italy.
Italy wasn’t an official country yet back then. The papal states were located in the central area, and it was Spanish domain including Sicily in the Southern area. The Northern region was packed with city nations such as Milan, Florence, and Venice.
It is unknown exactly who introduced cacao to Italy.
The most likely individual who introduced cacao to Italy is believed to be a trader from Florence, Francesco Carletti. Just like Marco Polo, Carletti was an adventurous man who navigated all seven seas.
He encountered a successful cacao farm near Guatemala and El Salvador in 1591. Carletti wrote a detailed note about the harvest and the process of cacao, and how to make a chocolate drink in his travel journal.
It is also believed that priests who worked between Latin America and Europe introduced it to central and Northern Italy. At that time, Italy was in the middle of a religious reformation. The group which held the most power was Societas Iesu, the anti-reformations. Back in 1624, Societas Iesu had 16000 members and was considered the most influential group in the Spanish territory across Europe and American continent. The members became cacao traders themselves, and introduced cacao to Europe.
Another likely individual is a Roman physician, Paul Zacchias. Back then, cacao was acknowledged as a type of medicine, and in a book published by Zacchias in 1644 it states that consuming cacao in the morning helps with digestion.
The cacao was introduced as stated above, but it was spread by the authorities.
Italy was ruled by the House of Medici at that time.
Let’s talk about the relationship between cacao and the House of Medici.
The Medicis succeed many Kings and Grand Dukes from their family, but the most ill-famed among them is Cosimo de’ Medici III. The latter historian criticizes him as a “cowardly, self-righteous,narrow-minded, and a stubborn individual”.
He was a helpless profligate and passed an outrageous tax law, and basically cornered his own country down to bankruptcy because of this. He was also a passionate Roman Catholic, and ordered the public to attend church more often… Yep, what an idiot.
Well it seems like he did some good deeds though. He supported Redi who was a scientist, poet, linguist, and a court physician as his patron. Redi‘s most well known achievement is discovering the fact that maggots don’t just appear on flesh or meat. Up until then, people believed the “spontaneous generation theory”, stating that life can arise from nonliving matter.
Well, what did this guy have to do with cacao? As a court physician, Redi improved the chocolate recipe. In his book he states “ chocolate came to Spanish court from the American continent in order to get to its level of completion. However, we have thought and improved it for more delicacy and elegance at Palais Toskana. By adding raw lemon, lemon peel, jasmine, and musk… ”
This recipe is later to be known as “Grand Duke Toskana’s jasmine chocolate”.
Redi was very cautious and kept this recipe a secret just to himself.
Maybe it’s thanks to this chocolate that the foolish Medici III lived up until 80 years old.
That is about it for the relationship between the House of Medici and chocolate.
Now, where do you think has the best chocolate?
Yep! France! In our next post, we will be focusing on France and chocolate.
With hopes that you will be able to encounter the perfect chocolate just for you,