Throughout this and many website's about Spain there are numerous mentions of the bite sized accompaniments served with drinks and known as "tapas". We have never been able to find out exactly what tapas is, or where it comes from, but thanks to the information below (sent to us by Ben Sieira) we now have a good idea.

The probable origin of tapas

It would appear that the origin of tapas was most likely with Felipe the 3rd (who lived from 1578 to 1621 and reigned from 1598 until his death).

Tapa" is castellano for "lid" and it is probable that tapas came about as a result of king Felipe the 3rd introducing a law in an attempt to curb the increasing levels of alcohol abuse in Spain.

The law stated that when one purchased a drink (typically from a tavern, called "taverna" Tapas as it is seen today in Spain), the bartender was to place over the mouth of the mug or goblet a cover or lid containing some small quantity of food as part of the purchase of the beverage. The client was to consume the food before he or she was allowed to remove the lid and consume the beverage. In this way there was an immediate effect in the reduction of violent brawling and destructive behaviour that tended to result from people getting too drunk far too quickly. It did not reduce the excessive alcohol consumption so much as slow it down and was intended to reduce the social harm that was occurring.

As for the method by which the law was enforced, it is not entirely certain that initially the food was served up on a lid covering the beverage and was required to be eaten first, but this is the likely case and in any case this became the generally accepted practice. The idea was to ensure that people had something in their stomachs other than alcohol for reasons which we now consider obvious.

Another possible initiator of tapas

Whilst it seems that the origin of tapas was most probably with Felipe (that's Philip) the 3rd , another source indicates that Alfonso 12th (reigned 1875 to 1885) or Alfonso 13th (reigned 1886 to 1931) may possibly be the king behind its origin. King Felipe 3rd is however most probably the king who introduced tapas.

Many thanks to Ben Sieira for finding and sending us this information.

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