Actually, the first chocolate house in London opened in 1657, advertising the sale of “an excellent West India drink”. In 1689, a noted physician, Hans Sloane, developed a milk chocolate drink, which was initially used by apothecaries. Later Sloane’s recipe was sold to the Cadbury brothers. London chocolate houses became trendy meeting places for the elite London society that savored the new luxury.
But chocolate goes back much farther than the seventeenth century. The fermented, roasted, and ground beans of the Theobroma cacao (chocolate), can be traced to the Mokaya and other pre-Olmec people, with evidence of cacao beverages dating back to 1900 B.C.
The Maya are credited with creating a drink by mixing water, chile peppers, cornmeal, and ground cacao seeds. The Aztecs acquired the cacao seeds by trading with the Maya. For both cultures, chocolate became an important part of royal and religious ceremonies. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. Chocolate was so revered, the Aztecs used it as both a food and currency. All areas conquered by the Aztecs that grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax, or as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”.
In 1521, during the conquest of Mexico, the Spanish conquistadors discovered the seeds and took them home to Spain. The Spaniards mixed the beans with sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and cinnamon. The result was coveted and reserved for the Spanish nobility. Spain managed to keep chocolate a secret from the rest of the world for almost 100 years. Once discovered, the drink spread throughout Europe.
Somewhere along the way, some European decided a special pot to serve the beverage was needed. The earliest pots were silver and copper. Later, European porcelain manufactures began producing them as well. These pots had a right-angle handle and a hole in the lid in which a wooden stirrer, called a molinet or molinillo, stirred the mixture. Rather than a log spout which began in the middle of the side of the pot, as coffee and tea pots do, the chocolate pot has a flared spout at the top. If you look on e-Bay, you’ll see pots of both styles, those with the long side spouts offered as combination coffee or chocolate pots. Prices range considerably, but a good pot can run as much as $700.00, and a set, with cups and saucers and sometimes sugar and creamer, can be as high as $3,000. Although none of mine are this valuable, my personal collection of chocolate pots numbers about 25 at the moment. The photographs are from my assortment.
Although it doesn’t appear in my book, To Have and To Hold, hot chocolate would have been served in Viola Simses’ eatery, and my heroine, Tempest Whitney and her children would have gone there to enjoy the special beverage. Viola undoubtedly owned a chocolate pot, but she would have reserved its use for her private quarters, not the eatery where the cups and saucers would surely have ended up broken.
The origins of the word “chocolate” probably comes from the Classical Nahuatl word xocol?tl (meaning “bitter water”), and entered the English language from Spanish. How the word “chocolate” came into Spanish is not certain. The most cited explanation is that “chocolate” comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, from the word “chocolatl”, which many sources derived from the Nahuatl word “xocolatl” (pronounced [ ?o?kola?t?]) made up from the words “xococ” meaning sour or bitter, and “atl” meaning water or drink. Trouble is, the word “chocolatl” doesn’t occur in central Mexican colonial sources.
Chocolate first appeared in The United States in 1755. Ten years later the first chocolate factory in the U.S. went into production.
BIO: Charlene’s first serious writing attempt came in 1980 when she awoke one morning from an unusually vivid and compelling dream. Deciding that dream needed to be made into a book, she dug out an old portable typewriter and went to work. That book never sold, but her second one, Tender Touch, became a Golden Heart finalist and earned her an agent. Soon after, she signed a three book contract with Kensington Books. Five of Charlene’s western historical romances were published between 1994 and 1999: Taming Jenna, Tender Touch (1994 Golden Heart Finalist under the title Brianna), Forever Mine (1996 Romantic Times Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award Nominee and Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist), To Have and To Hold Affaire de Coeur Reader/Writer Poll finalist); and writing as Rachel Summers, The Scent of Roses. Forever Mine and Tender Touch are available as e-books and after January 24, To Have and To Hold will be as well.
Charlene is having TWO giveaways today. First prize winner can choose between a Nippon Geisha Girl chocolate pot (photo to the right) or a $10 Amazon gift card. A second prize winner will receive whichever item the first prize winner does not select. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is leave a comment.