The first cocoa beans landed in Spain via ships in 1585 from the New World. Merchants, along with monasteries and convents, played a part in bringing chocolate to the Spanish land, where it soon took root.
The Dutch came under Spanish dominion in the 14th Century and subsequently under the spell of chocolate. In the 17th Century, they began shipping cocoa beans to Amsterdam and setting up processing plants.
Cocoa may have been introduced to Asia in the 1500s, when it was planted in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Early plantations couldn’t survive, but Indonesia went on to produce the famed dark milk chocolate.
Some say the first chocolate came to Italy from Spain through a merchant, while others credit the monasteries. Whatever the case, Italy got a taste in the 16th Century and chocolate makers sprang up in the 17th Century.
France also has its share of lore, the popular one being: when Anne, daughter of Philip II of Spain, married Louis XIII in 1615, she brought with her, her passion for chocolate, popularising it in the French court.
While Europe was raving over chocolate, the British fancied their coffee more. In 1657, the first chocolate house sprang up, and later, competing cocoa bars were the hangouts of rival political parties.
In the late 16th Century, a Swiss mayor sipped on chocolate in Brussels and raved about it. Even though the country to time to warm up to cocoa, Swiss chocolates today remain one of the most sought after.
Germany initially regarded chocolate as a medicine. The middle of the 17th Century saw Germans taking to the cocoa fashion, and later, the pastry chefs gave the world the fêted indulgence: Black Forest cake.
Cocoa came to China in the 17th Century, presumably brought by Catholic missionaries. However, chocolate continues to remain far from being a gastronomic delight for the Chinese, who’d rather indulge in their favourite tea, even today.
Bizarrely enough, chocolate didn’t travel north of Mexico and instead swam back the Atlantic to hit the US eastern shore from Europe. The first cocoa factory started in 1765, appealing to the masses rather than the elite.
A major industry since the 19th century, today chocolate forms an important part of the nation's economy and culture. While the raw materials used in chocolates do not originate in Belgium, the country has an association with the product that dates to early 17th century. In 2007, a voluntary quality standard was introduced by the European Union, which set certain criteria for a product to be considered "Belgian Chocolate". Under this "Belgian chocolate code" refining, mixing and conchering must take place inside Belgium.