Today we have guest author Charlene Raddon with us here at the Junction. Charlene is not only discussing one of the best things in this world–chocolate!–she is also giving away two books! One lucky commentor will win an e-copy of To Have and To Hold and another will win an e-copy of Divine Gamble. Take it away, Charlene!
I don’t know about anyone else, but I am thoroughly addicted to chocolate. Dark chocolate, to be precise. I rarely eat milk chocolate. Dark varieties have less calories and are good for the heart (that comes straight from my doctor).
Almost everybody loves chocolate, right? But how long has it really been around? The Victorians adored drinking the liquid version, but did they invent, grow, develop chocolate? No.
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, chili 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 in 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, like coffee and tea pots have, 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 vary considerably, but a good pot can run as much as $1,000.00, 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 assortment of chocolate pots numbers around thirty-five. The photographs shown here are from my collection.
The origin of the word “chocolate” probably comes from the Classical Nahunt word xocol?t (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 “chocolat,” which many sources derived from the Nahuatl word “xocolat” (pronounced [ ?o?kola?t]) made up from the words “xococ” meaning sour or bitter, and “at” meaning water or drink. Trouble is, the word “chocolat” doesn’t occur in central Mexican colonial sources.
Chocolate first appeared in The United States in 1755. Ten years later, the first U.S. chocolate factory went into production.
I learned all this doing research for my historical romance, To Have and To Hold. In the story, the heroine has a friend who owns a bakery in town and, when Tempest comes to visit, Violet serves her hot cocoa with a chocolate pot.
Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma of Spain published the first recipe for a chocolate drink in 1644 by in his book, A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate. The spices included hot chiles, and the recipe goes as follows:
- 100 cacao beans
- 2 chiles (black pepper may be substituted)
- A handful of anise
- “Ear flower” *
- 1 vanilla pod
- 2 ounces cinnamon
- 12 almonds or hazelnuts
- pound sugar
- Achiote (annatto seeds) to taste –
Ingredients were boiled together and then frothed with a molinillo, the traditional Aztec carved wooden tool. The achiote was used to redden the color of the drink. *Also known as “xochinacaztli” (Nahuatl) or “orejuela” (Spanish).
“Chiles and Chocolate” goes on to provide another chocolate recipe published in France 50 years later. This one has significantly reduced the amount of chili peppers. The recipe was published in 1692 by M. St. Disdier of France, who was in the chocolate business:
- 2 pounds prepared cacao
- 1 pound fine sugar
- 1/3 ounce cinnamon
- 1/24 ounce powdered cloves
- 1/24 ounce Indian pepper (chile)
- 1 1/4 ounce vanilla
A paste was made of these dried ingredients on a heated stone and then it was boiled to make hot chocolate.
Today, the main difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is that hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, which lacks the fat of cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate bars mixed with cream.
Charlene Raddon is the award-winning author of nine American historical romance novels and a book cover artist at http://silversagebookcovers.com. She began writing in 1980 and first published in 1994 with Zebra Books (Kensington Books imprint). Her work has received high reviews, won contests and awards. Her latest book, Divine Gamble, is currently up for a Rone.
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