The first printed evidence we have of Chocolate being used in London is in the notice in the Public Advertiser in 1657:
In Bishopsgate St is an excellent West India drink called chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time, and also unmade at reasonable rates.
By the end of the Commonwealth in 1659, Thomas Rugge, a London diarist, was writing in his Journal about coffee, chocolate and tea as new drinks in London, and referring to chocolate as ‘a harty drink in every street’.
Charles II’s physician Henry Stubbe wrote ‘The Indian Nectar’ in praise of chocolate. He said there were two qualities of chocolate- ordinary and royal. The royal variety which the King enjoyed was rich in cocoa, and not too sugary. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary on 24 April 1661 that in order to allay his appalling hangover, following the festivities surrounding the coronation of Charles II, he drank chocolate as a morning-after cure:
“Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s drink, which I am very sorry for; so rose, and went with Mr Creed to drink our morning draught which he did give me in Chocolate to settle my stomach.”
During the 18th Century there was a great increase in the consumption of chocolate throughout Europe. It was not long before cocoa suffered the same fate as tea and coffee and had duties imposed upon it. All chocolate, at this time to be made into drinking chocolate, had to be wrapped in stamped papers supplied by excise men and then sealed proving tax had been paid.
By 1800 the tax was two shillings in the pound on cocoa imported from British Colonies. So its use was restricted to the well off and chocolate became a feature of the daily life of the smart set. Addison wrote in the Spectator that its use was considered a token of elegant and fashionable taste. Beautiful sets of china were made for the service of chocolate. Some can be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Much chocolate was supplied not by specialists but by grocers. the Russells of Bloomsbury used a grocer who supplied them with many other products.
Likewise the Purefoys, a landed Buckinghamshire family used an agent to buy things not produced on their estate and he bought chocolate from a grocer called Moulson.
Mrs. Purefoy, a determined lady, kept a close eye on the transactions of her agent. On one occasion she wrote that the chocolate was so bitter and highly dried that she could not drink it. perhaps the grocer had heated it too long or too quickly. Her complaint illustrates the variations in quality which one might expect from small workshops.
One superior grocer who supplied chocolate was a woman, Teresa Mocenni of Sienna. She was the friend and supplier of the Countess of Albany, the widow of Bonnie Prince Charlie, when she lived in Florence.
Letters written by the Countess echo this awareness of variation in the recipe and quality of the chocolate.
21 November 1797 she wrote saying the chocolate was good but she preferred more vanilla.
25 July 1798
“the chocolate would be as good as Livornese if it were worked a little more and smoother.”
Again on 25 April 1801 she asked for chololate pastilles saying,
“Put in as much Vanilla as you can. I would prefer to have the best Chocolate even if it is dear,”
We have seen that chocolate was drunk and valued by the upper classes and beyond the reach of the lower classes, but the middle classes?
For them it was a rare luxury.
A lawyer called Burrell living on the then large income of £300 a year kept a diary between 1692 and 1711, in which he mentions the new hot chocolate drink twice only, once as a gift and once when he drank chocolate in London.
The account book of Sarah Fell of Swarthmoor hall, includes this entry:
“I penny was spent on chocolata” in November 1675.
She was married to George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends. This may well be the first known reference to a Quaker in connection with Chocolate.
Middle class people living in the country relied on travelling tradesmen for goods not produced locally.
One was the Reverend William Cole who was visited from time to time by the Cartwright Brothers, who were lace buyers visiting their workers. On one occasion Cole records in the Bletchley Diaries that they brought him 2 pounds of chocolate. It was not clear whether this was a gift or in exchange for some other service.
Clearly some middle class families did obtain chocolate, but the supply was infrequent and not to be relied upon.
One young lady, Miss Elizabeth Cartwright, who lived on the edge of Nottingham, wrote teasing letters to her good friend Mr. Dodsley. He had failed to arrive on two occasions when she was expecting him.
“…the Chocolate ready, the Balm Tea prepared, my cap put on much tighter than usual; all this done on two mornings together, yet no Mr. Dodsley appeared.
The accounts of Abraham Dent, who kept a grocers, mercers and stationers shop in Kirkby Stephen, indicate that chocolate usage in the 18th Century in the North of England was minimal. Between 1762 and 1765 tea appears often, coffee rarely and chocolate only once.
The middle and lower classes would have to wait until the twentieth century when reductions in taxation, large scale manufacturing, improvements in processing and transport would finally enable them to enjoy chocolate.
One exception was the navy. As early as 1780 it was served to British sailors by Captain James Ferguson, who had enjoyed drinking cocoa while the fleet was anchored in Antigua, in the British West Indies. He and the ship’s surgeon understood the nutritional value of cocoa, and as a dried provision it was ideally suited to long sea voyages. Limes provided essential vitamin C, therely preventing scurvy while coca provided a whole gamut of other vitamins and minerals as well as valuable and nourishing proteins and fats. the comfort and stimulation afforded by the drink to men taking the night watch must have been considerable.
By 1824 the cocoa issue or CI was instituted in the Navy , and each man received his daily ration, a one ounce block of chocolate along with his rum and limes.
Dr. Hans Sloane who we have already encountered as the friend of diarist and antiquarian Ralph Thoresby, both at the Royal Society and afterwards at the Grecian Coffee house, valued chocolate highly for its restorative qualities. He was the first person to try mixing it with milk. This was a closely guarded secret remedy, which was sold to an apothecary after some years. The secret was eventually bought by the Cadbury Brothers in 1824. They subsequently successfully mass-marketed it. Hans Sloane had already made himself a considerable fortune, and invested some of it in cocoa plantations in Jamaica, where he had first observed its dramatic effects in reviving sickly babies.
His ideas were evidently shared by Dr. Claver Morris, who we shall see in the following extracts dosing himself with chocolate in times of indisposition. Dr. Morris, however, rarely referred to meals in his diaries.
Dr. C Morris
21 Feb 1721
“Mr. Hill, Mr. Lucas, & I went to Mr. Burland’s [his son in law] to see his and his wife’s Pictures, & Breakfasted on Chocolate.”
8 August 1726
He was very ill with Rheumatick fever, cough, mucous ,loosing weight.
“I could not eat anything all this day, but a Dish of Herb-Porridg for Dinner & a Dish of Chocalate & Bread weaken’d & thinn’d with Milk for Supper.”
9 August 1726
“I continued Ill with my Cold. Wrote a Prescription. I eat only all this day a Dish of Herb-Porridg, & in the Evening a dish of Chocalate & Milk with Bread.”
This was the last entry but one in his diary. The last entry was on August 12th. His diary editor Hobhouse says:
“Tea, coffee and chocolate were infrequent luxuries, though they were all known in England in Morris’ time and could be obtained at the coffee houses which first began to be established about 1650. Morris records as unusual: “I breakfasted on tea (at home)”. I breakfasted on chocolate (at Mr Burlands).” “I drank coffee at Mr Hillses (after morning church).”He also records purchases of tea in small amounts. In 1712 Bohea cost him 7s.6d for a quarter pound and green tea 5s. Chocolate was relatively much cheaper; he buys it at 3s 6d. and 4s. a pound, probably unground as he also purchases a chocolate mill for 6d.”
Dudley Rider regarded chocolate as a food so necessary that he delayed his journey with his cousins rather than start without it.
Wednesday , September 14, 1715.
“Rose between 6 and 7. Got myself ready for my journey to the Hay (Westbrook Hay, Herts. where his brother Richard had an estate) with Cousin Billio and his wife. At 7 o’clock cousin and his wife came. They would not stay to drink chocolate and so left me to follow them after having drank some chocolate.
Monday, September 26.
“We went then to visit Mr. Partridge and his wife: we were treated at his lodgings with tea and fruit and chocolate. Tuesday, September 18. Rose at between 5 and 6. Went to Mr. Marshall’s…drank some chocolate there.”
Though an aristocrat , Mary Delany complained about the high price of chocolate.
October 5. 1727 to her sister
“Mrs. Badge nor I could not rightly understand you about the Bohea tea, for she does not remember she was ordered to bespeak any, and you say in your letter that I must send the Bohea tea that was bespoke and a pound more.
She imagines the tea Mama meant was “tea dust,” but she can’t get any for love nor money, but has bought two pound of Bohea, at thirteen shilling a pound, which the man says is extraordinarily good; but everything of that kind grows very dear, chocolate especially. I have sent you a pound at three and sixpence, the best in town at that price, but am afraid it is not such as my mother will like, but I desire her approbation of it as soon as she has tasted it. [Mrs. Granville having been brought up in Spain was particularly fond of chocolate.]
February 29. 1727-8 to her sister
“By monday’s coach I will send the chocolate and tea, and the new plays…”
March 12. 1728
“..I sent by a gentleman who came from Mr. Skin [a carrier] last Friday, three pounds of chocolate at four shillings per pound, one pound of Bohea thirteen shillings…when the lampreys come in , I shall be glad to have as many potts sent as will come to the money I have laid out in the chocolate and tea, which is twenty-five shillings.”
May 11. 1728 to her sister
“.. The man at the Poultry has tea of all prices,-Bohea from thirteen to twenty shillings, and green from twelve to thirty.”
April 19. 1729 to her sister
“I sent a little box last night to the carrier with a set of china as my mama ordered me: I hope they will come safely, I gave great charge about packing them carefully. China is risen mightily within this month. My Aunt Stanley liked them so well for the oddness of them, that she bought a set of cups, saucers, bason, sugar-dish and plate costing fourteen shillings.”
March 30. 1732 to her sister
“Yesterday we had an entertainment of another sort, and very agreeable in its way,-an assembly at Mrs. Butler’s. I played two pools at commerce: when that was over, at 10 o’clock was placed on little tables before the company as they sat, a large Japan board with plates of all sorts of cold meat neatly cut, and sweetmeats wet and dry, with chocolate, sago, jelly, and salvers of all sorts of wine. While we were eating fiddles were sent for.”
Mary Delaney gives us a vivid picture of life among the upper class. Difficult to imagine the pandemonium of all the activities she describes as going on simultaneously. But which of us would have imagined games, breakfast and harpsichord playing all taking place at the same time in the same hall without her witness? From that grandeur she shows us how simple her evening meals could be when she was alone. On a Thursday evening in 1740 it was chocolate and an egg.
April 5. 1733
To her sister from Dangan, the estate of Mr. Wesley. “We meet at breakfast about ten; chocolate, tea, coffee, toast and butter, and caudle, are devoured without mercy. The hall is so large that very often breakfast, battledore and shuttlecock, and the harpsichord go on at the same time without molesting one another.”
[See famous men file for party where Handel was served Chocolate.]
April 12. 1734} A thursday evening in 1740
Ann Granville, now Mrs. Dewes, to her sister Mrs. Pendarves, later Mrs. Delany, after her departure. “..To tell you what my heart feels of love and gratitude no day or night can suffice! I am going to drink your health in chocolate- your own dear chocolate, shall eat my egg and go to sleep because it is the only way I can see you now..”
February 13. 1745-6 Mrs. Delany to Mrs. Dewes
“Today a strange gibble gabble woman has plagued me all the morning; I never was more provoked to be rude in my life. I crammed her with chocolate and plum-cake, and then sent her packing, but she has robbed me of what is not in her power to restore- a good hour of my time.” [Time to write letters to her sister was the most valuable of commodities.]
One cannot imagine am aristocrat living in lodgings in this century, but in the 18th century buying property was rather rare. It is unusual to see a precise description of the decoration of a small apartment, so the next extract is particularly interesting. The Cocoa Tree was a famous chocolate house.
15 January. 1746-7 Pall Mall
“My lodging consists of one parlour (staircase is light and easy) and a drawing room, a size larger than what I had in Clarges Street: tapestry hangings, crimson stuff damask curtains and chairs, and tolerable glasses between the windows. The bedchamber backwards, new and clean; crimson and yellow flaring hangings of paper and a bed of the same materials as the curtains in the dining room; but it looks into a pretty garden, and over the Prince of Wales’s into the park, which is cheerful and pleasant. The two pair of stair rooms and the garret are all very tolerable. The rent four guineas a week; the situation is next door to the Cocoa Tree, which is the direction to me.” This is to show the address in letters as house next to Cocoa Tree.
February 1750 Delville Mrs. Delany to Mrs. Dewes
“Sunday morning just as I was going to church, I heard a tantararara at the door, and in walked my Mrs. Hamilton, her eldest daughter, and two sons. They went to church and drank chocolate afterwards; but she never dines abroad and left me a little after two.”
The excitement must have been extraordinary at the ball where such efforts had been made to create the ambiance. Instead of servants carrying round the cups of chocolate however did they arrange pipes to deliver hot chocolate to the leaves of trees and what was done to stop the flow when the cups were full?
February 7. 1752 Delville “The grand ball was given last Wednesday…the musicians and singers were dressed like Arcadian shepherds and shepherdesses and placed among the rocks. If tea, coffee, or chocolate were wanting; you held your cup to a leaf of a tree, and it was filled; and whatever you wanted to eat or drink, was immediately found on a rock, or on a branch, or in the hollow of a tree. The waiters were all in whimsical dress.”
James Woodforde a country clergyman, like many others who travelled was commissioned to buy chocolate and also records it as part of a special celebration.
3 October 1763
“Went to Sherborne this Morning early on purpose upon ye Grey to get me a Beaurou of one Hodinett a Cabinet-Maker and to get a pound of Cocoa for Mrs Melliar of C.Cary, of one Mr. Sanson.”
9 August 1763
“I went to Mrs Melliar’s publick Breakfast in the Vicarage Garden, where was Coffee, Tea & Chocolate & all kinds of Cakes & proper for the above (a very large Company there, a very good Band of Musick, Bells ringing, 80 loaves given to the Poor of Cary, every thing very elegant and handsome) all done in honour of Lord Stavordale being this day of Age. His Lordship is on his Travels abroad. There was dancing after breakfast in the Garden till three in the afternoon. I danced one Minuet in the Garden with Miss Martin, but would not dance Country Dances.”.
Dr. Hans Sloane who we have already encountered as the friend of diarist and antiquarian Ralph Thoresby, both at the Royal Society and afterwards at the Grecian Coffee house, valued chocolate highly for its restorative qualities. He was the first person to try mixing it with milk. This was a closely guarded secret remedy, which was sold to an apothecary after some years. The secret was eventually bought by the Cadbury Brothers in 1824. They subsequently successfully mass-marketed it. Hans Sloane had already made himself a considerable fortune, and invested some of it in cocoa plantations in Jamaica, where he had first observed its dramatic effects in reviving sickly babies. His ideas were evidently shared by Dr. Claver Morris, who we shall see in the following extracts dosing himself with chocolate in times of indisposition. Dr. Morris, however, rarely referred to meals in his diaries.
Chocolate was not generally available to the poorer classes until the 20th Century.
One exception was the navy. As early as 1780 it was served to British sailors by Captain James Ferguson, who had enjoyed drinking cocoa while the fleet was anchored in Antigua, in the British West Indies. He and the ship’s surgeon understood the nutritional value of cocoa, and as a dried provision it was idelaly suited to long sea voyages. Limes provided essential vitamin C, therely preventing scurvy while coca provided a whole gamut of other vitamins and minerals as well as valuable and nourishing proteins and fats. the comfort and stimulation afforde by the drink to men taking the night watch must have been considerable.
By 1824 the cocoa issue or CI was instituted in the Navy , and each man received his daily ration (a one ounce block of chocolate along with his rum and limes.
A curious use of Chocolate.
Private Parsons arrived at the Balaclava front in the Crimea in November 1852.
“chocolate also used to be sent out to us, this reaching us made up in the shape something like a big flat cheese. This chocolate we found would burn, so breaking it into pieces and piling stone around, we then would set fire to it, place our canteen on top and then wait for something warm, this being the only way we succeeded in doing so in the first few months.
Today chocolate is available in many forms varying from cheap basic to the most highly refined luxury products such as those sold by Rococo based on a single organic estates beans from Grenada. TEA and COFFEE TEA AND COFFEE Thomas Turner Shopkeeper
3 December 1755
‘Made an entry of my shop and kitchen to retail coffee, tea etc. and dated it as tomorrow’
By statute every retailer dealing in coffee, tea, cocoa or chocolate was required “before he take any of the said goods into his possession to make an entry in writing of all the store houses, shops, rooms, and other places intended to be used by him at the excise office for the division” on pain of forfeiting the goods plus £200 fine.
Travels of Faujas St. Fond 1784 Faujas visited Greenwich Observatory with a Committee of the Royal Society, was introduced to William Herschel, at four o’clock they adjourned to a tavern where dinner was served. “We rose from the table at seven o’clock not to depart, but to pass into another room, where cut bread and butter, tea, coffee, brandy and rum awaited us… the tea is always excellent in England; but nowhere do people drink worse coffee. The English must be little sensible of the delicious flavour of this agreeable beverage, which nature seems to have created to solace at once the body and the mind …Voltaire, who was extremely fond of coffee, called it with good reason the quintessence of the mind. Why then does the English government, for political and commercial reasons, prevent the people from using coffee which they might prepare according to their own taste, and compel them to purchase from monopolist dealers a kind of inferior quality, and bad flavour, which has been roasted a long time before …. I was so disgusted with the bad coffee which I found even in the most opulent of houses.