The name chocolate is nearly the same in most European languages, and is taken from the Mexican name of the drink, chocolatl, or cacahuatl. Atl is common enough in Mexican words, and is known to signify water. What the first part of the word means is not so clear. A French writer says it signifies noise; and that the drink was so named because it was beaten to a froth before being drunk.
The Spaniards found chocolate in common use among the Mexicans at the time of the invasion under Cortez, in 1519, and it was introduced into Spain immediately after. The Mexicans not only used chocolate as a staple article of food, but they used the seeds of the cacao-tree as a medium of exchange. An early writer says, "In certain provinces called Guatimala and Soconusco there is growing a great store of cacao, which is a berry like unto an almond. It is the best merchandise that is in all the Indies. The Indians make drink of it, and in like manner meat to eat. It goeth currently for money in any market, or fair, and may buy flesh, fish, bread or cheese, or other things."
In the "True History of the Conquest of Mexico," by Bernal Diaz, an officer under Cortez, it is related that "from time to time a liquor prepared from cocoa and of a stimulating or corroborative quality, as we are told, was presented to Montezuma in a golden cup. We could not at the time see if he drank it or not, but I observed a number of jars - above fifty - brought in and filled with foaming chocolate."
Thomas Gage, in his "New Survey of the West Indies," first published in 1648, gives the following interesting account of the Spanish and Indian way of making and drinking chocolate some two hundred and fifty years ago: "Now, for the making or compounding of this drink, I shall set down here the method. The cacao and the other ingredients must be beaten in a mortar of stone, or (as the Indians use) ground upon a broad stone, which they call Metate, and is only made for that use. But first the ingredients are all to be dried, except the Achiotte (annotto), with care that they be beaten to powder, keeping them still in stirring that they be not burnt, or become black; for if they be overdried they will be bitter and lose their virtue. The cinnamon and the long red pepper are to be first beaten with the anniseed, and then the cacao, which must be beaten by little and little till it be all powdered, and in the beating it must be turned round that it may mix the better. Every one of these ingredients must be beaten by itself, and then all be put into the vessel where the cacao is, which you must stir together with a spoon, and then take out that paste, and put it into the mortar, under which there must be a little fire, after the confection is made; but if more fire be put under than will only warm it, then the unctuous part will dry away. The Achiotte also must be put in in the beating, that it may the better take the colour. All the ingredients must be searced, save only the cacao, and if from the cacao the dry shell be taken, it will be the better. When it is well beaten and incorporated (which will be known by the shortnesse of it) then with a spoon (so in the Indias is used) is taken up some of the paste, which will be almost liquid, and made into tablets, or else without a spoon put into boxes, and when it is cold it will be hard.
"Those that make it into tablets put a spoonful of the paste upon a piece of paper (the Indians put it upon the leaf of a plaintain tree), where, being put into the shade (for in the sun it melts and dissolves), it grows hard; and then bowing the paper or leaf, the tablet fals off by reason of the fatnesse of the paste. But if it be put into anything of earth or wood, it stickes fast, and will not come off but with scraping or breaking. The manner of drinking it is divers; the one (being the way most used in Mexico) is to take it hot with Atolle, dissolving a tablet in hot water, and stirring and beating it in the cup, when it is to be drunk, with a Moli-net, and when it is well stirred to a scum me or froth, then to fill the cup with hot Atolle, and so drink it sup by sup. Another way is that the chocolate, being dissolved with cold water and stirred with the Molinet, and the scumme being taken off and put into another vessel, the remainder be set upon the fire, with as much sugar as will sweeten it, and when it is warme, then to powre it upon the scumme which was taken off before, and so to drink it. But the most ordinary way is to warme the water very hot, and then to powre out half the cup full that you mean to drink; and to put into it a tablet or two, or as much as will thicken reasonably the water, and then grinde it well with the Molinet, and when it is well ground and risen to a scumme, to fill the cup with hot water, and so drink it by sups (having sweetened it with sugar), and to eat it with a little conserve or maple bred, steeped into the chocolatte.
"Besides these ways there is another way (which is much used in the Island of Santo Domingo), which is to put the chocolatte into a pipkin with a little water, and to let it boyle well till it be dissolved, and then to put in sufficient water and sugar according to the quantity of the chocolatte, and then to boyle it again untill there comes an oily scumme upon it, and then to drink it.
"There is another way yet to drink choco-latte, which is cold, which the Indians use at feasts to refresh themselves, and it is made after this manner: The chocolatte (which is made with none, or very few, ingredients) being dissolved in cold water with the Molinet, they take off the scumme or crassy part, which riseth in great quantity, especially when the cacao is older and more putrefied. The scumme they lay aside in a little dish by itself, and then put sugar into that part from whence was taken the scumme, and then powre it from on high into the scumme, and so drink it cold. And this drink is so cold that it agreeth not with all men's stomachs; for by experience it hath been found that it doth hurt by causing pains in the stomach, especially to women.