Monday, March 11, 2013

Chocolate the Regency Way

by Maria Grace 

Of the three luxury beverages of the Regency era, tea dominates the conversation, but coffee and chocolate were regularly enjoyed by many in the higher classes. Chocolate was typically served at breakfast, although specialty coffee and chocolate houses served it at all times during the day. 

While some chocolate candy did exist in the regency era, dipped chocolates and sweet chocolate bars would not appear until much later. French cookbooks dating from 1750 contained recipes for chocolate disks sprinkled with nonpareils, chocolate truffles and fudge-like chocolate conserve. Recipes for ices, ice creams, custards and various pastries and tarts abounded in English cookery books. Even so, chocolate in the Regency era generally referred to drinking chocolate. 

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

Liotard, "The Chocolate Girl" (La Belle Chocolatiere)
Hannah Glasse 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, 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. 

Chocolate mill or molinilla
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. 

Chocolate pot
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. 

Chocolate cup with chocolate stand.
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 chocolate stands developed to steady the unstable cups. 

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: 


Hannah Glasse. The Art of Cooer Made Plain and Easy. W Strahan, 1784 
Maria Rundell. A new system of domestic cookery. J Geave, 1839 Arthur Parker’s fortifying cocoa 
Hot Chocolate 18th and 19th Century style Regency Chocolate
Regency Chocolate: The correct accoutrements  
Regency Chocolate-pale, thick and frothy

 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy's Decision and The Future Mrs. Darcy. Click here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.


  1. Now we know why only rich people would have it - dear me, what a lot of work! And the ingredients! I think I'll settle for cocoa, but a fascinating insight into Regency chocolate!

  2. Wow - Glad I don't have to make it, though trying wee sample would have been good...

  3. Fascinating. I had no idea of the work involved.

  4. Yes indeed, a lot of work, as Barbara say....

  5. Sometime in the last 20 years at one of our Regency Assembly's here in Southern California, we tried chocolate as if it was prepared for a Regency Palette. I relation to what we think of hot chocolate now, yuckkkk.

    No one would want to be binging on chocolate back in the Regency. Nice article.

    1. As I was reading the recipes, that is exactly what I thought. It just didn't appeal to me the way modern chocolate does.

  6. This sounds like the chocolate made in the Philippines. It is served for breakfast and it is grainy and made with water- no milk or cream at all. Most Filipinos pour it over their rice instead of drinking it. The flavor is different than our chocolate and people have told us that it is a different type of cacao used than that from South America. There is no peppery flavor like you would have with the recipes above. We love it and our friends bring us some whenever they have been home to the Philippines

  7. There are some things better now than then. What a fantastic article this is! Thank you, Maria Grace!

  8. My big effort goes into loose tea and if I can't scoop my chocolate scoop out of a canister, it's not in my cup. Thanks for the great information.

  9. I just visited William Penn's house in PA and saw his chocolate pot, circa 1690; the guide told us that his hot chocolate was shaved from a chocolate bar and stirred into red wine (warm) sugar. She said it was pretty bitter. I guess they had no sugar readily available in PA at that time.

  10. Thank you so much for this! I might just have a go at making it.


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