The History of Chocolate Houses
Did you know that hot chocolate houses and the obsession with chocolate are not a new phenomenon in the UK?
In fact, the first recording writings of ‘chocolate’ is in Samuel Pepys Diary, where he settled his stomach with chocolate the morning after the celebrations of King Charles II Coronation in April 1661.
Originating in 17th Century Europe, Chocolate Houses were a place for people to socialise, gather, and exchange ideas.
Prepared with exotic spices and sweetened with sugar, the water-based hot chocolates served were far richer than modern hot chocolates. They were also far sweeter than the original Mesoamerican hot chocolate drinks which were the inspiration for the European favourite.
Because of the expensive ingredients involved in making hot chocolate (sugar was still a very expensive commodity), Chocolate Houses were often exclusive to the wealthy, and many of the chocolate houses charged an entry fee - making them even more exclusive.
Drinking chocolate was available to also purchase in Coffee houses (which had started popping up in London just a few years earlier), however, the hot chocolate available there was often very watered down, and not as rich or deep in flavour. Coffee Houses were more commonly used by the lower classes because of the cheaper prices too.
It wasn’t until a physician and naturalist Hans Sloane travelled to Jamaica and witnessed locals mixing chocolate with spice, eggs, sugar, and milk to make a thick, creamy chocolate drink, that people in the UK started to enjoy hot chocolate with milk.
Hot chocolate continued to grow in popularity and became a wonderful drink to enjoy at all times of the day. Chocolate kitchens even started to appear in homes and palaces of the rich and wealthy, including in the King’s Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, where hot chocolate would be prepared every morning, as a breakfast drink for King George I.
In the 19th Century, Chocolate Houses started to decline as Coffee Houses and pubs became more popular social gathering spaces. The Industrial Revolution also brought around a lot of changes in society and traditional social structures changed dramatically.
Chocolate Houses have never come back in quite the same way (except Chococo, of course!), but they still left an important mark on European culture and have been a huge influence on the Coffee Houses which are still lining high streets across the world to this day.