Christopher Colombus is thought to have brought the first cocoa beans to Europe between 1502-1504. However, with far more exciting treasures on board, the beans were neglected.
Later his fellow explorer, the Spanish Hernando Cortez, who conquered the Aztec emperor and his people realized a potential commercial value in the beans. Some of the beans he took to Spain, where they were made into a drink by substituting sugar and vanilla for the chili peppers.
For nearly a century this beverage was kept a secret from other European countries. Later when the British captured a Spanish vessel loaded with the cocoa beans in 1587, they destroyed the cargo thinking it was useless.
During the 17th century, the chocolate beverage quickly became a popular drink all over Europe, however some condemned it as an evil drink. It got banned in the realm of Frederick III of Prussia.
In the countries that did accept the drink, it became the privilege of the wealthy due to its high price. In London the first so-called chocolate house opened in 1657, then they became the trendy meeting places of the elite society.
As cocoa plantations spread to the tropics in both hemispheres by the 19th century, the increased production reduced the price of the cocoa beans thus chocolate became a popular and affordable beverage.
In England, the heavy import duties which had made chocolate a luxury for the wealthy were reduced in 1853, allowing a number of cocoa and drinking chocolate manufacturers to get into the business.
Chocolate was still exclusively for drinking until around 1830 when a British chocolate maker named J. S. Fry and Sons developed eating chocolate. Then in the 1870's, Swiss manufacturers added milk creating the first milk chocolate.
Industrialization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have made chocolate a widespread dessert. But in spite of its availability, people continue to hold onto the notion of chocolate as a special treat.