Today, Europe is admired as a continent that produces some of the most premium chocolates in the world. Nevertheless, you might be surprised to learn that Europe started as a relative latecomer in discovering the joys of chocolate when compared to other continents.
Keep reading to trace the interesting origins of chocolate in Europe, ranging from Spanish, French, English, Dutch, and German chocolate. Find out how chocolate, which began as a luxury for royalty, eventually became a widely popular treat for most Europeans. Familiarize yourself with the well-known chocolate brands in Europe which you can enjoy, including Ferrero and Lindt.
The Origins of Chocolate in Europe
Chocolate originally spread to Europe from Central and South America, where people from the Maya and Aztec ancient civilizations cultivated cacao trees as early as 1250 B.C. The Aztecs and Mayans concocted a bitter beverage made from cacao beans mixed with chili pepper and vanilla. They also used cacao beans as a form of currency in their society.
There are mixed reports on who brought the first cacao beans to Europe. According to WIRED, the navigator Christopher Columbus was the first person to import cacao beans to Spain as he completed his fourth and last voyage to the Americas. Nevertheless, cocoa did not immediately make a major impact on Spaniards during that time.
The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes also transported cacao beans and brewing equipment when he returned to Spain in 1528. Legend says that Cortes was introduced to the cacao bean drink in 1519 by Montezuma II, who was the Aztec leader of Mexico. Dominican friars also provided cacao beans to Spanish royalty.
Chocolate became a popular staple among the Spanish court by the late 1500s. Spain started to import cacao beans from Veracruz, Mexico by 1585. As representatives from France and Italy traveled to Central America, they also brought back cacao beans to their own countries. The use of chocolate eventually spread throughout the continent of Europe.
The first chocolate house in England opened in London in 1657, based on History resources. Hot chocolate was once considered by the British people as an all-around medicinal beverage used to cure tuberculosis and other health conditions. The French royalty grew interested in hot chocolate after Louis XIV got married in 1660 to Marie Therese, who was a fan of cocoa. The courtiers of the Palace of Versailles believed that the beverage was an aphrodisiac.
Chocolate was introduced in Germany at the start of the 17th century. It was initially marketed as a form of medicine in pharmacies, although German chocolate recreational drinks began to be sold in the country in 1673.
The Rise of Chocolate in Europe
During its early history, chocolate was mostly an exclusive treat for rich people. However, it eventually achieved popularity with more Europeans from different social backgrounds. At first, Europeans consumed hot chocolate beverages that were flavored with pepper, wine, and coffee. In the early 1700s, English and Dutch chocolate makers started adding milk and sugar to chocolate.
The mass production of chocolate began in the late 1700s after the steam engine was invented. According to Smithsonian Magazine, a Dutch chemist created powdered Dutch cocoa in 1828 by removing half of the cacao butter from chocolate liquor, grinding it into powder, and adding alkaline salts to reduce the bitter flavor. This powdered chocolate became the foundation for solid chocolate. Jordan & Timeus developed the first milk chocolate in 1839 in Germany. Their company “Dresdner Schokoladenfabrik” expanded year by year when the steam engine was installed to make production more efficient and the two entrepreneurs gained worldwide reputation. Joseph Fry made the very first modern chocolate bar in 1847 in the UK. He added cacao butter back to Dutch cocoa to form a moldable chocolate paste.
Notable Chocolate Brands in Europe
Despite its relatively late discovery of chocolate, Europe is now one of the most sought-after sources of luscious chocolate products throughout the world. These are some of the famous chocolate makers in Europe whose chocolate confections you can relish:
- Ferrero: It started as a simple pastry shop of the Ferrero Family during the 1940s in Italy which grew into a global chocolate manufacturer.
- Lindt: This chocolatier and confectionery company was established by Swiss pioneers whose inventions transformed the chocolate industry in the 19th century.
- Milka: The Swiss chocolate maker has been producing chocolate since 1880 and the first Milka chocolate was packaged in it’s distinctive purple packaging since 1901. By the 1960s Milka was Germany’s most popular chocolate.
- Ritter Sport: The company was established in 1932 after Clara Ritter suggested to create a chocolate bar that easily fits into a jacket’s pocket without breaking easily. The square chocolate bar format has been a trademark ever since.
- Cadbury: It began to sell chocolate candies as a small company in England in 1868 and evolved into a British multinational confectionery.
Satisfy Your Taste Buds
Become part of the exciting history of European chocolate by savoring delightful chocolate from the continent, such as Ritter Sport, Ferrero, Lindt, Milka, Niederegger and many more. Bookmark this website to learn more about chocolate in Europe and beyond.
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