MAIN BLOG - chocolate history - Feb 20

Chocolate – Divine Decadence

I am not a lover of sweet things, but the thought of good quality chocolate can make the strongest resolve crumble in an instant. I was wondering what made chocolate so special and read some articles – this is what I have found.

On his third voyage to the New World, on 15 August 1502, Columbus captured a Maya trading canoe laden with cacao beans and other produce. He may have learnt that the beans were money but he never found out that a drink was made from them.

When Cortez invaded the Yucatan and then the valley of Mexico itself, between 1517 and 1526, they soon realized the full value of the black “almonds” of which many millions was stored at Tenochtitlan. At first disgusted by the frothy, dark beverage they had to drink at every Aztec banquet, they soon grew to like it. Rumour had it that the drink had aphrodisiac qualities, maybe because it was drunk late at night – who knows?.

Chocolate is known to have reached the Old World by 1544, when a party of Kekchi Maya from Guatemala, led by Dominican friars, paid a visit to the future Philip II of Spain. They brought him chocolate, maize and other New World products. The cocoa beans were soon a commodity of trade and the Spanish court was well known through Europe for the preparation of chocolate drinks.

According to Florentine historians, “a drink used in Spain called ciocolatto” was first sold in Florence in 1668 “in little earthenware beakers, hot as well as cold according to taste” and by then it was already known at the court of Cosimo III de Medici. The Grand Duke’s physician had written in 1666 of experiments with new flavourings for chocolate, including musk, jasmine, citron peel and lemon peel.

It was also in Italy that chocolate would reach its highest fame as a vehicle of poison (a reputation it already held in early colonial Mexico). Pope Clement XIV, who suppressed the chocolate loving Jesuits in 1773, was believed to have been poisoned by being served a bowl of chocolate in the following year.

Chocolate may have been known as an aphrodisiac, a vehicle of poison, and the beans a form of currency but today still it is one of the most fashionable delicacies. We hear from various studies that chocolate can be good for you, eaten in moderation; it can lower your blood pressure, etc.

We have chocolatiers who are specialists of the art of chocolate. They tantalize and tease us with their creations. Chocolate is used in food – everyone is ga-ga about chocolate chilli sauce with meat. Well, the Mexicans have been using it in that form for many years!

Here are one of my favourite chocolate recipes:

According to Indian folklore Yashini, a goddess, made the following dessert as an aphrodisiac for her gentleman callers. Girls, you might have some luck – try it!!!!

Yashini’s veil
Serves 4

  • 2 bananas
  • 100g roasted mixed nuts, lightly chopped
  • 150ml chocolate sauce
  • 2 scoops each of vanilla ice cream
  • Dollop of crème fraiche per serving
  • Fresh berries for garnish


Mix the bananas, nuts and chocolate sauce together. Place in the bottom of a flat champagne glass or martini glass. Top with ice cream and then top with crème fraiche garnish with berries and serve.


By Chef Francois Ferreira