A Skelding Summary
The ancient European sweet tooth more or less had to rely on honey until Columbus sailed to the other side of the Atlantic.
The first modern explorers of the Americas, Christopher Columbus and Herna Cortes got the better part of the deal. The Spanish and the Portuguese ended up with lots of land, gold, silver, cocoa beans and eventually sugar - the Aztecs, on the other hand, ended up with influenza and a killer strain of chicken pox.
In 1502, Columbus introduced cocoa back to Spain - some 3000 years or so after the Aztecs had begun to cultivate the plant - and in 1519 Cortes received his very first mug of cocoa - or as the Aztecs called it 'xocoatl' - which was a bit of a mouthful. Indeed Cortes and co found the beverage more than a mouthful as it was very bitter to Spanish palates (xocoatl is Aztec for "bitter water") - and as a result the Europeans quickly added sugar to sweeten the drink.
The Spanish kept this discovery to themselves for over a century - though news of it had spread to Italy by 1606 and cocoa grew popular in France soon after. The first (French owned) Chocolate Shop appeared in London in 1657 and chocolate drinking became the rage throughout Europe. In 1700 the English had a bizarre notion and added milk to the chocolate - which though tasted very nice could be afforded only by the wealthy as the English authorities, as with tea, decided to tax the beverage heavily.
Chocolate as we know it today originates from 1876 and was developed by the Swiss, Daniel Peter.
The craze for sweeties, icecream and candy exploded after the first 2 world wars. What is now scientifically termed an addiction to sugar, developed into mass production of chocolate when the Belgians and the Brits took over the famous Swiss chocolate market lead.
As for sweets, Victorians called them sweetmeats and they were for special occasions only; now they are so cheap & common that they are hardly a treat any more in the US and Britain. The rest of Europe is more careful of their children's teeth and perpetuate the desire for sugar by adding sugar, in various forms, to most food & drink. Indeed mass produced alcohol is made with yeasts that won't do the fermenting job properly without it. Coffee has taken over from cocoa as the most popular vehicle for sugar and is said to be the adult 'sweet'.
Bad for you? well isn't too much of anything a bit dodgy?
This FAQ (frequently asked questions) is also a running Q&A (questions & Answers) so you can ask and we will answer or find out for you.
Histories of Things