Chocolate Arrives in England
Chocolate arrived in England in the 1650s and the aromatic drink became hugely popular in King Charles II’s court. But you’d have to be rich to drink it
- high import duties on cocoa beans meant that it was expensive.
Gradually it started to become more widely available. In 1657, London’s very first Chocolate House was advertised: “In Bishopsgate Street, in Queen’s Head Alley, at a Frenchman’s house, is an excellent West Indian drink called Chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time and also unmade at reasonable rates.”
“Went to Mr Bland's and there drank my morning draft in good Chocolatte.”
Diary of Samuel Pepys, 3 May 1664
Soon there were many chocolate houses in London, and like the cafés and coffee shops of today, people went to meet their friends and chat (or gossip) about the issues of the day over a cup of chocolate.
The most famous one was White's Chocolate House in fashionable St. James Street, opened in 1693 by an Italian, Frances White. The rich and bitter chocolate drinks were sold alongside ale, beer, snacks and coffee and would have been made from blocks of solid cocoa, probably imported from Spain. You could also buy a pressed cake to make chocolate at home. White’s still exists, but you can’t buy chocolate there now. Like many of the 18th century chocolate houses, it became an exclusive gentlemen’s club, and still is to this day.