Chocolate in Spain

Did you know that Saturday 13th September is International Chocolate Day? You might not think that we know that much about chocolate here at El Pirata, but chocolate has been a part of Spanish culture for centuries.

You might know Spain for its’ Tapas, Paella and Jamon- but did you know that it’s also the birthplace of chocolate in Europe? Over 500 years ago, the conquistadors returned from the new world with gold, turquoise- and chocolate. In fact, the roots of chocolate are so deeply embedded in Spanish culture because the Spaniards who returned from South America were the first people to mix the bitter Mayan cocoa drink with sugar and serve it piping hot (instead of room temperature)- creating the first version of hot chocolate (or, chocolate caliente), which we still love today.

Hernán Cortés, one of the most famous Spanish Conquistadors, was the first European to bring chocolate back from the Mayans- after being mistaken for a god! Hernán was welcomed into Aztec feasts and festivals, where he learned all about the spicy, bitter drink which was so highly prized in ancient Mayan culture. Once he brought it back to Spain, however, the drink didn’t become a widely available treat straight away- instead, the magic of turning cocoa into a delicious hot drink was a closely guarded secret of the Cistercian monks for over 100 years who preserved their chocolate making skills for only the highest members of Spanish nobility.

Although in Modern day Spain chocolate isn’t a huge part of the diet (we in the UK consume over double the amount compared to our Mediterranean cousins!), it can still be found in bakeries and sweet shops across the country. One of the most popular dishes is, of course, Chocolate con Churros– deep fried, long donut-like pastries, served fresh from the fryer and dusted with sugar and cinnamon, ready to be dipped into chocolate– thick, rich dipping chocolate. Although you can find this delicious treat all the year around in some parts of Spain, we think that it’s best served in the UK on a cold winter’s day, with plenty of time to sit back and enjoy it, of course!

As part of international chocolate day, we are celebrating our very own chocolate dish here at El Pirata- Mousse de chocolate con compota y nueces. A wonderfully decadent dessert, this chocoholic’s dream consists of light, airy chocolate mousse, covered in a tangy raspberry compote and topped with chopped hazelnuts. The sharpness of the fruit cuts through the sweetness of the chocolate, and the hazelnuts offer a delightful crunch to finish off every mouthful. We suppose you could share one with a friend, but with a dessert this good, why would you want to?