Making Drinking Chocolate the Regency Way

Making drinking chocolate in the regency era was a time consuming, labor intensive process, beyond the means of many, particularly if started from dried cacao nibs. 


Because anything induced by chocolate MUST be a good idea, its time for another chocolate-induced dive down the research rabbit hole!

Just to refresh your memory a bit, during the regency era, there were three particular luxury drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. (I talked about tea recently, you can find that HERE. ) They were in high demand, but expensive to acquire and, in the case of chocolate, difficult to make. 

Drinking chocolate, which was most typically enjoyed at breakfast and in the evening before bed, was thick, even syrupy, very different from tea or coffee. Its thickness, and the need to preserve the froth on top meant that special cups were required to properly enjoy sipping the chocolate through the milky froth on top and special pots were developed to assist in making and serving that froth.  

Hannah Glasse, a well know period cookbook author,  offered two recipes for preparing the nibs for use.

How to make Chocolate.

 TAKE fix pounds of cocoa-nuts, one pound of anise-seeds, four ounces of long-pepper, one of cinnamon, a quarter of a” pound of almonds, one pound of pistachios, as much achiote as will make it the colour of brick, three grains of musk, and as much amber-grease, fix pounds of loaf-sugar, one ounce of nutmegs, dry and beat them, and scarce them through a fine fire ; your almonds must be beat to a paste, and mixed with the other ingredients; then dip your sugar in orange-flower or rose-water, and put it in a skillet, on a very gentle charcoal fire ; then put in the spice, and stew it well together, then the musk and amber-grease, then put in the cocoa-nuts last of all then achiote, wetting it with the water the sugar was dipped in stew all these very well together over a hotter fire than before; then take it up, and put it into boxes, or what form you like and set it to dry in a warm place. The pistachios and almonds must be a little beat in a mortar, then ground upon a stone.

 Another Way to make Chocolate.

TAKE fix pounds of the best Spanish nuts, when parched, and cleaned, from the hulls, take three pounds of sugar, two ounces of the best cinnamon, beaten and sifted very fine; to every two pound of nuts put in three good vanelas, or more or less as you please; to every pound of nuts half a drachm of cardamom-seeds, very finely beaten and searced.

 These recipes, which might also include cardamom, aniseed, cloves, bergamot(a major component in Earl Grey tea, tastes like Froot Loops), produced a hard, gritty chocolate tablet. A few people ate them straight as a type of candy, but most believed they would cause indigestion if eaten in that form.  These tablets were the basis of Regency drinking chocolate.

Even with premade chocolate tablets, it took thirty minutes or more of strenuous effort and several specialized kitchen items to prepare a cup of drinking chocolate. 

 First, a specialty chocolate grater would be used to shave the necessary amount of chocolate from the solid tablet. The powdered chocolate would be added to a large pan containing water, milk or possibly a mixture of water and wine or water and brandy and place over heat.

The chocolate/liquid mixture would be brought to a boil, while constantly stirring to prevent scorching. After it came to a boil, the cook removed it from the heat and used a special tool, known in England as a chocolate mill (in France a molinet, in Spain a molinilla) to agitate the mixture. At this point eggs, flour, corn starch or even bread might be added to the mixture to thicken it. The cook would spin the chocolate mill between her hands for several to incorporate the thickeners into the drinking chocolate.

After beating, the pot was returned to the heat and brought to a boil again while stirring constantly. At this stage, cream might be added. The chocolate mill would be employed once more to fully blend the mixture and raise a head of froth without which drinking chocolate was not considered fit to be served.

The finished drinking chocolate would be transferred to a special chocolate pot for service. A chocolate pot was taller and straighter than a tea pot, with a shorter spout than a coffee pot, placed high on the pot. It also sported a hinged finial on the lid to allow a coffee mill to be used while the lid was down to prevent splashing.  Reader about those here: Don’t serve your coffee from a chocolate pot!

Chocolate cups were taller and narrower than coffee or tea cups. Their unique shape made them more likely to spill, so special saucers known as coffee stands developed to steady the unstable cups.  Read about those here: Chocolate cups and trembleuse saucers

Those who could not afford all the specialty items made do with what they had, cooking their chocolate in skillets and drinking it out of whatever vessels they had.  If they could not afford chocolate at all, Hannah Glasse offered this recipe.

Sham Chocolate

TAKE a pint of milk, boil it over a slow fire, with some whole cinnamon, and sweeten it with Lisbon sugar; beat up the yolks of three eggs, throw all together into a chocolate-pot, and mill it one way, or it will turn. Serve it up in chocolate-cups.

Gingerbread might also be added to this beverage as a thickener.

This modern recipe captures many of the flavors of Regency drinking chocolate.

Spiced Hot Chocolate

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 strip lemon peel 1″ by 2″
  • 1 3″ cinnamon stick
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the first 5 ingredients to boiling, reduce heat simmer 3 min. Remove from heat whisk in cocoa and vanilla until foamy. Strain into warmed cups. Top with whipped cream.  From: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/a-passion-for-hot-chocolate/


 References

Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cooking Made Plain and Easy. W Strahan, 1784

Maria Rundell.  A new system of domestic cookery.  J Geave, 1839

Arthur Parker’s fortifying cocoa<http://www.janeausten.co.uk/arthur-parkers-fortifying-cocoa/>

Chocolate http://researchingfoodhistory.blogspot.com/search/label/Chocolate

Hot Chocolate 18th and 19th Century style <http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/hot-chocolate-18th-19th-century-style/>

Regency Chocolate http://historicalhussies.blogspot.com/2009/07/regency-chocolate.html>

Regency Chocolate: The correct accoutrements http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/regency-chocolate-the-correct-accoutrements/>

Regency Chocolate-pale, thick and frothy http://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/regency-chocolate-mdash-pale-thick-and-frothy/>

6 comments

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    • Mary List on January 13, 2018 at 7:44 am
    • Reply

    Maria, your recipe brings to mind the recipe for the Terran approximation of “klah” , minus the coffee, in Jody Lynn Nye’s “Dragonlovers Guide to Pern”.

    1. I love the reference!!! Love Ane McCaffrey’s Pern!

    • J. W. Garrett on January 13, 2018 at 8:24 am
    • Reply

    From now on, every time I read of someone drinking chocolate, I will think about the poor kitchen help and all that was necessary for them to have that luxury. Wow! Thanks for this excursion down the Research Rabbit Hole. I loved the links so we could see the different pots and cups. Very delicate work on some of them. I tried to decide which one would Lizzy like of a morning. Perhaps she would have a favorite when in her private setting room or a different one for the breakfast room when they had guests. Excellent!

    1. It does put a different spin on things, doesn’t it. It also explains why instant hot chocolate came to be a thing, doesn’t it?

    • Anji on January 13, 2018 at 2:28 pm
    • Reply

    Wow! I’d be fascinated to try this and see what it tastes like, but I think I’ll stick to the instant variety for everyday use!

    1. I’ve wondered that too. I’ve tried using Mexican chocolate to prepare it and it’s good, but I’m not sure it’s really accurate to the period.

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