The Famous French Queen Who Loved Chocolate

Mexico has given the world many wonderful things to eat: corn, avocados, and, everyone's favorite: chocolate. But the life of the treat started off very differently than we know it today. First cultivated in 1900 BC by the Olmecs, then by the Maya and Aztecs, World History Encyclopedia explains that cacao beans were fermented, cured, roasted, and then ground; mixed with water, spices, and other ingredients; and served as a drink called xocolatl (the origin of the word chocolate). Hot chocolate occupied a central place in Aztec culture and was enjoyed primarily by the upper classes. Montzeuma II, the last of the great Aztec rulers before the Spanish Conquest, was a special fan and reportedly drank large quantities daily for its many health benefits (via History Channel). Xocolatl was even believed to be an aphrodisiac.  

Unsurprisingly, the royal beverage touting many perks inspired the Spanish to bring cacao beans back to Europe in the 1500s, spurring a taste sensation in the elite Spanish courts, per Alimentarium. Soon after, chocolate enthusiasm spread throughout Europe and, over time, took on a different direction. European chefs added sugar and other spices to cocoa powder, creating a sweeter, dessert-type beverage. Chocolate arrived in France in 1615 with the marriage of Louis XIII to Spanish-born Anne of Austria (via Chateau de Versailles), allowing the French aristocracy to discover the great pleasures of chocolat

Marie Antoinette had her own 'Chocolate Maker to the Queen'

While Anne's son Louis XIV was an average fan of drinking chocolate, Chateau de Versailles says that Louis XV couldn't get enough of the stuff (even, apparently, making it for himself upon occasion — mon Dieu!), and his mistresses were aficionados as well.

But it was Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, who took things up a royal notch. When the two wed in 1770, 14-year-old Marie employed her own "Chocolate Maker to the Queen." The role was no gimmick: The new queen took her chocolate and its flavorings very seriously, and her chocolatier bore the responsibility of inventing new recipes to delight.

Over the years, other figures catered to Marie Antoinette's sweet tooth. According to Debauve et Gallais, pharmacist and physician to the king Sulpice Debauve created a recipe blending a headache medicine with chocolate, creating little pastilles of which Marie Antoinette was exceedingly fond — so much so that they became known as "the Queen's coins." It seems like King Louis XVI wanted to get in on the action, too, as Debauve was named his "official chocolatier" in 1800.

Proving that a love for chocolate knows no party, Debauve outlasted a regime. When Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fell to the guillotine, the chocolate expert moved on to greener pastures. His new role? Chocolatier to First Consul Napoleon Bonaparte. But we can still thank Marie Antoinette for giving French cuisine a deep and lasting appreciation for the greatness of cacao.