Spain was the very first country in Europe reached by cacao.
There are many theories surrounding the time, place and way in which the Spanish got to know the Fruit of the Gods and started enjoying it as a hot beverage. Many books and articles have given credit for the introduction to Hernàn Cortès, but there seems to be no historical basis for this.
A much more accredited theory goes back to 1544, when a delegation of Maya nobles was accompanied from the Alta Verapaz region in Guatemala to visit Prince Philip in Spain. We actually have a list of the presents they brought him from their distant land: clay vessels, plant products, quetzal feathers, copal incense and more. They also brought to court receptacles of beaten chocolate. As far as we can tell, this marked the debut of chocolate in the Old World.
However, throughout the 16th century there was constant intercourse between Spain and its New World possessions, as military men, civilians, and the clergy passed back and forth across the Atlantic. True transoceanic commerce in cacao came relatively late: it was not until 1585 that the first official shipment of cocoa beans reached Seville from Veracruz.
Regardless of how and when chocolate actually got to the Iberian Peninsula, there is general agreement that it became acclimatized in the Spanish court during the first half of the 17th century, where it was specifically the same hot beverage that had taken shape among the Creole Spaniards of Mexico.
In 1701, an English traveler wrote:
“The Spaniards being the only people in Europe, that have the Reputation of making chocolate to perfection.”
Chocolate then made its way to Italy, France and the United Kingdom, soon becoming one of the most appreciated beverages next to tea and coffee, first enjoyed by the rich elite of aristocrats and later on by the middle working class too.