Posted in Kafevend Blog
Columbus was the first to introduce cocoa to Europe, presenting some of the beans to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain at the beginning of the 16th century. Nothing was made of them until Hernán Cortés presented them again to the Spanish royalty thirty years later, along with methods for making drinks with them learnt from the Aztecs he had conquered. Spain kept the discovery of cocoa quiet for almost a century. France was one of the first countries to learn of the existence of cocoa when the secret got out, thanks to the marriage of Anne of Austria (Phillip III of Spain's daughter) to the French king Louis XIII. She introduced cocoa to the French court, where it quickly took off.
Chocolate became popular throughout Paris, and an influx of cocoa from plantations established on Cuba and Haiti by the French in 1684 saw it spread throughout the rest of the country. Alongside consuming it for pleasure, it was perceived as having medicinal qualities too. There were many French entrepreneurs who saw the value in cocoa. One such person was Felix Bonnat, who established the first Chocolat Bonnat store in 1884 in the town of Voiron, which lies to the south east of Lyon. The business remains in family hands to this day. Bonnat are particularly renowned for their range of origin bars. Like an origin coffee, the bars contain cocoa beans from only one country, which are delivered unroasted to the stores where they are then made into chocolate.