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Chocolate Arrives In America

Chocolate Arrives In America

(continued from previous article)

From the Spanish court, chocolate quite naturally moved to the Austrian court. (The Emperor Charles V called it a "divine drink" to "build up resistance and fight fatigue.") And from there it was taken to the French court, by either Anne of Austria, Queen of Louis XIII, or Marie Therese, the Austrian princess who became the Queen of Louis XIV.

From France, the taste for chocolate passed to England. And here for the first time, it was introduced in a limited way to the masses. In June of 1657, the first chocolate house was opened in London. "In Bishopsgate Street," ran the advertisement, "in Queen's Head Alley at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West India drink called Chocolate to be sold...." It was expensive, of course; nevertheless, other chocolate houses soon sprang up, some of great elegance. And in time, many of them, like White's which flourished in Queen Anne's day, combined chocolate drinking with gambling and "intellectual discussions" which often centered on the merits of chocolate itself. One housewife, for instance, was reported to have been "brought to bed of twins three times for drinking it."

Chocolate was first imported into the American Colonies in 1755 by Massachusetts traders who took sacks of cacao beans in the West Indies in exchange for rum. Its popularity as a drink can be judged by the number of advertisements that appeared in early periodicals in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston. But the price remained high until mass production began to eliminate some of the tedious handwork that had been involved in the chocolate-making process before. Dr. James Baker financed the first serious attempt to manufacture chocolate on a large scale in a rented grist mill on the Neponset River in Massachusetts in 1765. And his success in the venture was assured when the pre-revolution tax on tea made many colonists turn to chocolate as a standard household beverage. "The superiority of chocolate, both for health and nourishment," said Thomas Jefferson at the time, "will soon give it the preference over tea and coffee in America which it has in Spain."

That Jefferson's prophecy was never realized can be attributed in no small measure to the success that Dr. Baker's grandson achieved with new methods of chocolate manufacture when he took over the factory in the early nineteenth century. A cocoa press now made possible the separation of cocoa butter from cocoa powder. And while this process made for a beter cocoa that would give the world a smoother drink, it also made for better chocolate which, because of the fact it was enricheed by the very same cocoa butter that had been extracted to make cocoa, now melted to a velvet smoothness of both flavor and consistency. (Until then, cooking chocolate had often had a granular texture.) And so fastly superior and dependable and delicious were the bars now sold that in short order chocolate became linked in most minds not with beverages at all but with cakes, creams, desserts, and candies. Such a mental association made it virtually impossible to think of chocolate in the same terms as coffee or tea. This association was cemented by the invention of the milk chocolate process in 1876 by Daniel Peter of Vevey, Switzerland. But whatever chocolate may have lost in popularity as a beverage, it more than made up for by what it gained in prestige as a flavor (continued in next article)


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