Chocolate: provoking lust since 1662

Ah, Easter Sunday, the moment we all gather together to remember the time that Jesus went three days without eating chocolate, or something like that. In honour of the occasion here is a some chocolate talk from 1660s England.

There is no doubt that coffee was the exotic and fashionable drink of choice  in last third of the Seventeenth Century, with Tea not far behind. But alongside these two was another narcotic of choice: Chocolate. In the 1660s, Coffeehouses sprung up all over the country, particularly in London, becoming hubs of political tittle tattle and acting as grease in the wheels of commerce (the venerable insurance giant Lloyds started out in just such a place), but by the late 1690s Chocolate houses were prevalent too. These were very similar to their black & frothy sister establishments, being popular social, political and gaming establishments.

Luckily for these establishments, chocolate’s reputation managed to survive the early  Spanish accounts of the drink:

They grinded the nuts into a paste, and, when they used it, they dissolved it (being pouder’d) and milled it, tempering it by little and little with water in an Indian cup: and sometimes they added a little pepper; and this was their ordinary drink; which they did drink themselves, and gave to wearied travellers, as well as to the sick. This they offered to Benzonus, and when he with an abhorrency refused such a drench, they admired, and laughed at him. But certainly it was not improved to any deliciousness of tast, since he saith it was bitterish, and that it was more fit to be hogs-wash, then drink for rational men. The same may be collected from Acosta, who saith, that The chiefest use the Indians make of Cacao is in a drink, which they call Chocholate, whereof they make great account in that countrey, foolishly, and without reason: for it is loathsom to such,  as are not acquainted with it, having a skum, or froth, that is very unpleasant to taste, if they be not very well conceited thereof; yet it is a drink very much esteemed amongst the Indians, wherewith they feast Noble-men as they pass thorough their country.

The ancient South Americans seemed to have something of a modern Chocolateers inclination to add in as many weird and wacky ingredients as they could. Unlike today, these had practical purposes; the additional ingredients changed the medicinal properties of the chocolate, which was an aspect that was considered highly important in the intial western adoption of the drink. That said, I’m pretty sure Hotel Chocolate do this recipe:

It is then clear, that the Indian ordinary Chocolata was made of the Cacao nut, and meal of Indian wheat, and water, and Pocholt, and now and then some Pepper called Chille, which was put in, more, or less, according to the necessity of the Patient’s stomach, or other circumstances: So that they made divers sorts of it, some hot, some cold, some temperate, and put therein much of that Chili, or Chille. [Italics are my emphasis]

Yep, they do:

'Aztec' Chilli Chocolate

Once Europeans realised that adding sugar was the key to making it palatable, the recipes start to look familiar:

In the common Chocolata sold so cheap there is not any thing, but eight ounces of the [Cocoa] Nuts prepared, and powdered, seven ounces of Sugar, and one ounce of Spice; viz. half an ounce of Cinnamom, two drams of Iamaica-pepper, or other Pepper,and as much of Cloves, Nutmeg, and Limon-pill

It’s not surprising that chocolate became so popular as a drink once a palatable way of preparing it for English tastes had been found. Although it can’t have hurt that Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac was there from the very beginning:

And as Chocolata provokes… and becomes provocative to lust upon no other account.

As for Chocolata, how effectual it may be herein, I understand not by experience: but, since the most amorous Nations in the World drink it, it is very possible, it may conduce thereunto much.

All quotes taken from Henry Stubbe’s “The Indian nectar” (1662).


5 thoughts on “Chocolate: provoking lust since 1662

  1. Emma Jolly

    Great Easter post. Was in Bruges last Easter and this brought back happy memories of the chocolate museum there. On the subject of chilli in chocolate – you can out chocolate in chilli too: chilli con carne with a few squares of chocolate. Lovely!

  2. Ben Breen

    Thanks for this – I love the history of chocolate!

    Marcy Norton’s “Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures” (Cornell UP, 2008) is a great academic history title that deals with these themes in the 17th/18th c. Spanish empire. Highly recommended.

  3. Fran

    What ever method is used to fix chocolate, if you have a taste for chocolate, you will eat it or drink it. Looks like you have fun researching it. Great post.


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