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Hot Chocolate or Hot Cocoa

by Lynne Belluscio

This last weekend during the Candlelight Tours, there were some discussions about chocolate. As most of you know, cacao was discovered by Europeans when they began exploring South America.  The early chocolate beverage did not resemble what we know as hot chocolate or hot cocoa.  It was bitter and sometimes spicy.  It was not made with milk.  When chocolate was introduced into Europe, it was more expensive than tea or coffee.  The demand for Cacao beans created the need for Cacao plantations and slave labor.  The English, Dutch and French colonized and planted cacao as well as sugar which was needed to sweeten the bitter beverage.

 Processing chocolate from the cacao bean was labor intensive, but in 1765, Dr. James Baker of Dorchester, Massachusetts, bought a water-powered grist mill and turned it into a chocolate mill.  (Thus Baker’s Chocolate – not because it was used by bakers.  Eventually, the company was taken over by Walter Baker, and the company continues today under that name. Baker’s Chocolate was bought by Postum in 1927 shortly after Postum acquired Jell-O and became part of General Foods.  In 1969, - a year after Jell-O moved to Dover, Delaware, Baker’s Chocolate moved to Dover. It was moved to Canada in 1992.  In 1995, Baker’s became part of Kraft Foods.)

In 1815, a Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten treated chocolate with alkaline salts which reduced its bitterness. This process created Dutch Chocolate and the process is called “dutching.”  (A couple of us tried chewing some of the chocolate beans and the chocolate nibs, and found them to be very, very bitter. There was a slight chocolate flavor, but it was had to get past the bitterness. )

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