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The History of Chocolate

Chocolate in America

The drink that so captivated continental Europeans made its way across the English Channel by 1650. But the English viewed all the exotic ingredients added to chocolate in Spain, Italy, and France as excessive. Instead, they added water to small amounts of chocolate, sometimes mixing in milk, eggs, sherry, port wine, and orange blossoms, as well.

The growing popularity of the drink led to the opening of the first "chocolate house" -- The Coffee Mill and Tobacco Roll -- in London in 1657. Patterned after the coffeehouses of the day, chocolate houses provided a place for people (mostly men and, because chocolate went for 15 shillings a pound, mostly the wealthy) to sip chocolate, smoke tobacco, conduct business, talk politics, and even gamble.

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Chocolate in England was produced primarily by Quakers, who gradually developed a near monopoly over chocolate-making in the British Empire. Fry, Cadbury, and Rowntree are probably the best known of these early Quaker chocolate makers. Because of their religious beliefs, Quakers were barred from many typical business activities, but they were allowed to turn their hands to food-related trades. Viewing bread in its biblical role as the "staff of life," the Quakers became great bakers, and soon they were adding chocolate to their cakes, cookies, and pies.

As Quakers and other colonists began to seek freedom in the New World, they brought with them their knowledge of how to produce chocolate. Chocolate reached the American colonies from England by the mid-1700s, and in no time, New England ship captains began filling their cargo holds with cacao beans from the tropics to supply this new market.

In the colonies, anyone with the cash to pay for it was allowed to drink chocolate, but in effect, it remained as it had been for most of its history -- a luxury beverage for the wealthy. Thomas Jefferson, for example, fell in love with the chocolate drink when he was ambassador to France and began importing cacao beans and chocolate to Monticello.

That exclusivity would finally change for good, however, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution, which sparked the transformation of chocolate into a milder-tasting solid confection and finally put it in the hands of the masses. The masses, in turn, embraced chocolate and began a love affair that continues in the Western world to this day.

Keep reading to learn about the birth of chocolate candy.

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