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 1st June 2020
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Week 5

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Week 5 - The religious orders and their role in cocoa distribution

& the letter E for Europe

The Dominicans were the first to play a role in the regular consumption of cocoa and in its distribution in Spain. During the 16th century, cocoa travelled between monasteries in different parts of Europe, and it was regularly brought to Spain by merchants and priests travelling back and forth from the New World trading all sorts of merchandises and precious metals.

It was in 1585 that we find the first written reference of a ship carrying cocoa beans arriving in Spain.


Cocoa soon spread throughout Europe, starting with Italy and then making its way to Austria, Germany, France, and eventually England. By the 17th century, Amsterdam became the first cocoa distributor of Europe.


The Spanish were the first in Europe to consume cocoa for pleasure. It had first been considered a tonic, a stimulating drink, and it soon became a fashionable new medicine at a time where medicine was virtually nonexistent & horrific;


It spread into high society becoming popular among wealthy people, the royalty and nobility of the time, and in England under Charles II in the Restoration Period. 


But, it was only when cocoa was accepted by the Church that it really conquered the whole of Europe. For 200 years, many religious groups couldn’t agree upon chocolate being either a food or a drink, and therefore whether or not it was breaking fasting traditions such as Lent.


With a more liberal view in 1664, F. Brancaccio said; ”If made with water, the beverage is a beneficial medicine which restores health; fasting is not a divine law but ecclesiastic law, and thus subject to change, so it should be changed to accommodate this fine beverage”. 

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Programme in partnership with Melange Chocolate
Principal Sources:
"The True history of Chocolate" Thames & Hudson
 "Encyclopedie du chocolate et de la confiserie" AFCC
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