Chocolate cup cake with pieces of chocolate, 2000.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Chocolate is derived from the seeds of the cacao tree, native to tropical America, but today mainly cultivated in West Africa. The Mayans drank chocolate 1400 years ago, and it was brought back to Europe by the Spaniards after Hernando Cortez tasted 'chocolatl', a drink enjoyed by the Aztec emperor Montezuma. Cortez reputedly did not enjoy the drink, but was intrigued by the use of the beans by the Aztecs as a valuable form of currency. Today chocolate is available in solid form for eating and for use in baking, as well as still being used to make a beverage.