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English Chocolate Houses of old

I came across the name Grace Tosier last week and it led me on a lovely little journey of chocolate discovery....

Grace ran The Chocolate House on Chocolate Row (now The Grove) in Greenwich in the 17th century. Opened by her husband in the early 1700s, she took over the running of it when her husband Thomas moved in to Hampton Court to be the King's (George I) chocolate maker (great job) and as a shrewd business-woman she made the most of these royal connections, holding events to match those at the royal court and gaining a great reputation as the Royal Chocolate House, frequented by the elite. She became a bit of a Georgian celebrity and was even painted by a fashionable portrait painter in 1729.

The first Chocolate House was established in Bishopsgate in 1657 and soon they became the ideal places for political and social interaction. Hot Chocolate was infused with citrus peel and spices and eventually egg whites, milk and sugar, with each house creating it's own recipe. Another female run house, known as Mrs White's in Westminster (she took over the running of it after her husband died) became the most famous in London with a reputation for high-stakes gambling, before becoming White's Gentleman's Club.

Sadly popularity for Chocolate Houses waned in the 18th Century but perhaps with the new wave of appreciation for craft, single origin chocolate we will start to see more independent chocolate houses popping back up.

If you would like to get a taste of The Royal Chocolate House and explore a little more of the history of chocolate, head to Greenwich Naval College where a new exhibition explores the Tosier Chocolate House, now through til November.

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