Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Georgian Chocolatier Grace Tosier - and some Historical Chocolate Trivia

Q –      When was the first chocolate bar created?
Was it: 1649, 1749, 1849 or 1949?
Answer at the end of this post!

In last week’s post about the awesome chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, we were introduced to Thomas Tosier – chocolatier to King George I. But the story doesn’t end there as Thomas had an enterprising wife, Grace Tosier, who was something of a phenomena in her own rite.
Grace Tosier with her trade mark wide brimmed hat and
posy of flowers at her bosom.
Grace seems a larger than life character. A portrait of her exists which shows a jolly looking woman wearing the trade mark large brimmed hat and a posy of flowers in her bosom. Whilst her husband worked for the king at Hampton Court Palace, she ran a successful chocolate house in Greenwich.
In the 18th century chocolate houses were a bye word amongst the upper classes for luxury, sophistication and good company. Grace was canny enough to recognize that when it came to cocoa and Tosier’s links to the king, their surname was a brand to be reckoned with. Indeed, when her husband died and eventually she remarried, she valued it enough to retain the name Grace Tosier.
The chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace -
it was here that the actual cup of hot chocolate was created.
Grace’s story is interwoven with the history of chocolate. Historically, the invention of chocolate bars is relatively recent, and for two thousand years cocoa was consumed as a beverage. The practice first took place in Mexico, when the court of Montezuma, king of the Aztecs, consumed a post-prandial chalice of chocolate which was decanted from one vessel to another until it gained a frothy head.
To create the beverage the sun-dried, roasted in earthen pots, the shells removed and the kernels ground over a fire. The heat turned the powder to a paste, the flavouring added and the mix formed into cakes which was left on banana leaves to dry ready for storage. To make the drinking chocolate the cakes were crumbled into water, heated and whipped up.
Cocoa pods and beans.
The cocoa harvest was considered unreliable and so the plants
were grown beneath banana trees for a second revenue stream.
The Aztecs gave chocolate to warriors in blocks coloured with annatto, a red dye, which stained the lips and tongue in symbolism of human blood (the Aztecs and Mayans had a penchant for human sacrifice!)
“The lips and part of the face around them, are covered with the foam, and when it has been coloured with annatoo it looks horrific because it is just like blood.”
Gonzalez de Oviedo, writing in the 16th century.
For a long period the Spanish kept hot chocolate secret with such success that when in 1579 British buccaneers stopped a Spanish ship, they tipped the cargo of cocoa beans overboard as worthless. But by 1660 the Europeans had cottoned on to what they were missing and drinking chocolate became hugely popular.
Books of recipes appeared as early as 1609, as people experimented with ideas such as replacing cornmeal as a thickener, with ground almonds. The Aztec frothiness was mimicked by using a special swizzle stick, or molinillo, and indeed later chocolate pots can be told apart from coffee pots by the hole in the lid through which the molinillo was inserted.
Hot chocolate pots on display at the chocolate
kitchens at Hampton Court Palace
In the mid 17th century via a succession of royal marriages chocolate drinking crossed through Spain, Portugal, Italy, France on its way to England. The drink was sold in chocolate shops which were an environment for the wealthy to discuss business and some gained reputations for being breeding grounds for radical politics. In 1675 King Charles II felt so threatened by the hotbed of chocolate houses that for a short time he closed them down. One can imagine the uproar of the public being deprived of chocolate – and they soon reopened.

And finally, the answer to the teaser question:
Q –      When was the first chocolate bar created?
Was it: 1649, 1749, 1849 or 1949?
Answer at the end of this post!

A –      1849
            The first chocolate bars were not announced with a fanfare, but created as a means of using up waste products left over from the manufacture of cocoa powder for hot chocolate drinks.


  1. Fascinating post! Can't believe Charles II tried to close chocolate shops!

    1. Incredible - he can't have been a very wise monarch!

  2. Thanks for sharing this information with us. I have no knowledge of history of chocolate but after reading this post, it enhance my knowledge. Using of chocolate in non food application is really new thing for me.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Victoria. Glad you enjoyed the post.
      G x


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