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Mexicolore contributor Dr. Kate Loveman

Chocolate in the Restoration

We are most grateful to Dr. Kate Loveman, Senior Lecturer in English Literature 1600-1789, School of English, University of Leicester, for this brief insight into the little known role of 17th century diplomats and businessmen in bringing the secrets of chocolate manufacture to England...

Pic 1: Advert for ‘Chocolate An Indian Drinke’ ‘to be had at reasonable rates’ at the Vine Taverne, Holborne, in 1652; 17th century coffeehouse; original Trade Token (worth a farthing) issued by the Vine Tavern, Holborn
Pic 1: Advert for ‘Chocolate An Indian Drinke’ ‘to be had at reasonable rates’ at the Vine Taverne, Holborne, in 1652; 17th century coffeehouse; original Trade Token (worth a farthing) issued by the Vine Tavern, Holborn (Click on image to enlarge)

By the early 1660s, chocolate drink and the tablets of chocolate needed to make it were on sale in venues around London, including coffee-houses, booksellers, and physicians’ premises. An expensive, fashionable drink, chocolate was also used to treat a variety of ailments. Wealthy gentlemen and women therefore sought to establish the best combination of spices and other ingredients to suit their tastes and their constitutions.

Pic 2: A cacao-grinder, Journal of the first Earl of Sandwich, 9:54, Sandwich Papers
Pic 2: A cacao-grinder, Journal of the first Earl of Sandwich, 9:54, Sandwich Papers (Click on image to enlarge)

One such investigator was Edward Mountagu, first Earl of Sandwich, who had taken to consuming chocolate regularly while an ambassador to Spain in the mid-1660s. Once back in England, Sandwich set about gathering information on chocolate’s manufacture, aided by his client in Madrid, John Werden. Werden’s manuscript account described (with illustrations [see Pic 2]) how to grind cacao beans, mix in spices, and shape chocolate tablets. He offered further guidance on elite Spanish methods of consuming chocolate, including the first known recipes in English for creating frozen chocolate treats.

Pic 3: The earliest dated chocolate recipe (dated Madrid 10 August 1665) in the manuscript of Lady Ann Fanshawe
Pic 3: The earliest dated chocolate recipe (dated Madrid 10 August 1665) in the manuscript of Lady Ann Fanshawe (Click on image to enlarge)

While Werden’s specialized information would have allowed Sandwich to impress his guests with the latest delicacies, the two men’s interest went beyond feeding a chocolate habit. This was a form of scientific research: Sandwich was a member of the newly formed Royal Society, which at this time was gathering information on exotic foodstuffs and on manufacturing processes. As a member of the Charles II’s committee for trade and foreign plantations, Sandwich also likely had an eye on the potential for growing cacao in the crown’s West Indian colonies.

Over succeeding decades, chocolate consumption in England was outpaced by both coffee and tea, yet the taste for chocolate would prove enduring.

Further information can be found in ‘The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640-1730’, published in The Journal of Social History, 47 (2013). The article can be accessed via Dr Kate Loveman’s webpage (link below).

Picture sources with notes:-
• Pic 1: (L) Image of the title page of a rare early European book on chocolate, ‘translated from the Spanish of Colmenero de Ledesma, a physician from Andalusia for whom chocolate was a medicinal drink with specific health-giving qualities. His Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y calidad del chocolate was first published in 1631, as a ripost to a 1618 tract by Bartholomé de Marradón, critical of chocolate’s effects on digestion and health from the galenic point of view.’ Image and quote from -
http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20137/lot/50/
• Pic 1: (Centre) Image from Wikipedia
• Pic 1 (R): Photo from the Museum of London Collections Online database; ‘Simon Marshal issued this trade token, worth a farthing at the Vine tavern, in Holborn, Middlesex’. The production date of 1648-1673 matches precisely the years when chocolate was available for purchase at the Vine Tavern! ‘Tokens were issued by tradesmen for their business... in the 17th century, between 1648 and 1673, in response to a lack of low denomination being produced by the crown’ - essentially, as a form of cheap coinage. It’s quite possible that this particular token was used in the 1650s as part transaction to buy chocolate!
• Pic 2: Image courtesy of John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich
• Pic 3: Image courtesy of the Wellcome Library, London. Sara Pennell, author of ‘The history of our obsession...’, below, writes ‘Accompanied by a contemporary sketch of a chocolate pot and molinillo [wood whisk], the recipe appears to have come into her collection when she accompanied her husband, Sir Richard, on his embassy to Madrid between 1664–6.’

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Mar 02nd 2014

Dr Kate Loveman’s webpage, University of Leicester
‘First Earl of Sandwich’s recipe for iced chocolate’, The History Blog
‘The history of our obsession with chocolate’, BBC History Magazine
Read the entire text of ‘Chocolate: Or, An Indian Drinke...’
‘Chocolate by Royal Assent’
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