No bon-bons for Prinny!

And no strawberries dipped in chocolate, no truffles, no chocolate-covered cherries, no turtles, not even a plain chocolate bar. No chocolate for Prinny!

Poor Prinny! Had he been bad? Well, yes, he often was, but that is not why he was denied the enjoyment of these luscious treats. No one else who lived during the Regency would have ever sampled such delights either, because they did not exist. The only way a denizen of the Regency era would have enjoyed chocolate was by drinking it, usually with their breakfast. "Eating" chocolate, as we in the 21st century know it, was not developed until the Victorian era.

Chocolate, a drink popular with the Olmecs, the Maya and the Aztecs, came to England by way of Spain. The first chocolate house opened in London in the mid-seventeenth century. The grinding of cocoa seeds was a labor-intensive process that was mechanized during the Industrial Revolution so that chocolate could be made widely available, at a reasonable price. But even this product was still gritty, and could only be made edible when it was dissolved in hot water or milk.

The first step toward today’s eating chocolate came in 1828 when the Dutch chemist, Coenraad Van Houten, invented the cocoa press. The press made cocoa powder by squeezing out the cocoa butter. This cocoa powder was less expensive to produce and of a consistent quality. But the real breakthrough came in 1879, when Rodolphe Lindt invented the Conching machine. This machine made it possible to eliminate the grittiness of the ground cocoa bean and to fully blend the powder with the cocoa butter to produce the smooth, mild, rich confection that we all know and love.

There are any number of books and web sites devoted to the history of chocolate. And yet, so many Regency romance authors write of their characters enjoying chocolates at an afternoon tea, as part of the refreshments at a ball or as a gift from a besotted suitor. But these sweet delicacies were not available until well into the reign of Prinny’s niece, Victoria. Such historical inaccuracies spoil my enjoyment of an otherwise well-written novel. To those authors I make this request:   Enjoy as many chocolates as you like, but please, don’t share them with your Regency characters.

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About Kathryn Kane

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era.   An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.
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5 Responses to No bon-bons for Prinny!

  1. Pingback: Regency Chocolate ;mdash Pale, Thick and Frothy | The Regency Redingote

  2. Cari Hislop says:

    I use chocolates in my Regencies because I came across things like this website for a Parisian shop that claims to have been selling chocolates for two hundred years…they have a box full of sweet things they were selling purportedly in 1800. The actual shop itself has been selling chocolates for nearly as long. http://www.debauve-et-gallais.fr/en/

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      There were various chocolate confections available from the end of the eighteenth century, even in England, but most of them were either some type of cake or pudding, as heat and fluid were necessary to make chocolate solids palatable. There were some people who just ate the hard, gritty chocolate tablets which were sold for making drinking chocolate. It would have been like eating chocolate sand. Yuck!

      Smooth eating chocolate as we know it today was technically impossible until the introduction of the conching process in the 1880s. Prior to that time there was no way to completely blend the cocoa solids with the cocoa butter to achieve that luscious, melt-in-your mouth goodness that so many of us adore.

      There are very few company web sites which can be relied upon for actual historical fact. Certainly not Debauve-et-Gallaissite. The product to which you provided a link is a case-in-point. The description was clearly written by their marketing department, for it states that the box in which the chocolates are packaged carries an image of their store as it appeared over 150 years ago. They make no claim that the contents of that box were made from chocolate recipes of that time or before, though the description is carefully written to give that impression. Sadly, truth is seldom to be found in advertising.

      Regards,
      Kat

  3. Sia says:

    See, I found this and thought ‘Oh dear, I did share my chocolate with them’. Entirely by coincidence, the chocolate I was enjoying at the time was the type you drink. Phew! I think I’m safe.

    • Kathryn Kane says:

      You are quite safe with drinking chocolate, that was very popular during the Regency. It is the lovely glossy eating chocolate that we in the 21st century enjoy which had not yet been invented during the Regency. They did have chocolate cakes and puddings, &c. Any recipe which included heating and dissolving the chocolate available to them in some kind of liquid would make it palatable.

      =^..^=

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