Vanilla is native to tropical America (Mexico) and it was the discovery of the New World by the conquistadors that brought it to Europe.
The Mexicans had used vanilla for a long time and its Aztec name was "Tlilxochill" or "black flower". Hernando Cortez, the conqueror of Mexico, was undoubtedly the first European to taste this spice when he was served vanilla-flavoured chocolate in a golden goblet by the Emperor Montezuma.
Despite the care taken by the Aztecs to hide the secret of the drink's flavour, the Conquistadores quickly discovered it. From 1510 vanilla was imported to Spain and from 1604 to France where it was commonly used in coffee and chocolate.