Few know that it was the Spaniards who brought chocolate to Europe from the New World, heaped in the bellies of their grand galleons alongside silver and other treasures. In the early 1500’s, the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés sailed to what is now Mexico and encountered the Aztecs, quickly realizing the value of the strange beans that they used for a bitter, unsweetened drink with supposedly aphrodisiacal qualities. So prized were these beans that the Aztecs actually used them as a form of currency (not so outlandish considering the world’s current enthusiasm for the stuff).
After savagely conquering the Aztecs and declaring himself captain general of Mexico, in 1528 Cortés loaded his galleon with cocoa beans and chocolate-making equipment, and headed back to Spain. It was the Spanish monks who then added sugar and spices, making it into the hot sweet drink that we know today. Chocolate’s popularity grew quickly, and the Spaniards held the secret to chocolate production while also controlling the import of cocoa beans from the Americas. Thick, sweet drinking chocolate remained the rage of the upper classes all over Europe for the next two hundred years. It’s hard to believe, but solid chocolate bars and candy weren’t even developed until the 19th and 20th centuries!
Spain’s love affair with chocolate continues, and it’s still common to find children drinking hot chocolate for breakfast at home. Cafes that serve churros con chocolate, or fried doughnuts with thick dipping chocolate, are found all over Spain. You’ll find these chocolaterías buzzing during breakfast or late into the wee hours, after nights of revelry.
We’ve been importing Spanish a la Taza drinking chocolate bars from bean-to-bar Blanxart Chocolate company practically since our business began. Blanxart has been making chocolate in Barcelona since 1954, before bean-to-bar was a buzz phrase, and before artisanal chocolate was considered cool. Their rustic drinking chocolate bar is one of the more decadent ways to experience classic Spanish hot chocolate. This unrefined bar is made with only cacao, sugar, and vanilla and, when milk is added, turns into a thick, rich beverage made for dipping (or for dropping in a shot of espresso to launch you into your day!). If you really want to go authentic, add a bit of cinnamon, clove and cayenne, and enjoy it as the Aztecs did.
For a simple hot chocolate recipe using the rustic Blanxart a la Taza Chocolate Bar click here.