The Conquistadors were soldiers in the Spanish and Portuguese empire’s army who lead a murderous colonization in South America in the sixteenth century. During these conquests, they discovered cocoa and began to transform it into chocolate.
The Discovery of Cocoa
Painting depicting Cortes and Moctezuma’s meeting in Mexico
When the conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they met the Aztec emperor “Moctezuma”. The latter offered them pots of chocolate mousse, and they discovered the taste of chocolate and its sweetness for the first time. With the help of the natives, they found a cocoa plantation, and tried to recreate the same drinks that they enjoyed with Moctezuma.
At first, the Spanish conquistadors were disappointed by the taste of chocolate and they just used cocoa beans as a means of exchange. But, after a depletion of food stocks, Spanish settlers were forced to look for alternative foods (planting fruits and vegetables, olives and sugar cane). They then started using the natives to turn the cocoa beans into cocoa paste that they mixed with sugar cane.
The Spanish Conquistadors and the Exploitation of Chocolate
Mexican temple sculpture – Cortes and Moctezuma
The first cocoa journey to Europe, particularly to Spain and other European countries, began in 1520, but its commercialization and exploitation did not begin until the 17th century.
The Spanish conquistadors constantly transformed cocoa, and they heated it until it became liquid. Unsatisfied with the taste, the Spaniards added spices to the product to vary the flavor. But, once they sweetened the cocoa, they fell in love with this unique product and began to exploit it. They became more and more interested and began to accept it as an exceptional product to market. The Spanish conquistadors exported chocolate to Spain and the Spaniards popularized it throughout Europe (in France and Italy). Since its arrival in the country until the twentieth century, the Spanish only consumed chocolate as a drink, never in any other form.