The Georgian royal chocolate-making rooms at Hampton Court Palace have been rediscovered and are open to the public for the first time in almost 300 years – and visitors will be able to sample a hot chocolate recipe from centuries past.
The historical hot chocolate on sale draws on the first known British royal chocolate recipe, uncovered by Dr Kate Loveman from the University of Leicester’s School of English.
The chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace is the only surviving royal chocolate kitchen in the country. The former chocolate room once catered for three Kings: William III, George I and George II. It features faithful recreations of the ceramics, copper cooking equipment, bespoke chocolate-serving silverware, glassware and linens of the time, and will be used throughout the year to host Georgian chocolate-making sessions so that visitors can experience chocolate-making first-hand.
In recreating the chocolate known by the Georgians, the team from Historic Royal Palaces were aided by research carried out by Dr Loveman. She published an article in the Journal of Social History which describes how chocolate was used and sold in seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century society.
Dr Loveman’s article explains some of the differences between the extremely expensive chocolate drunk by courtiers, and the slightly less expensive chocolate that was available in coffee-houses and chocolate houses. Among the recipes she found was one recorded for the first Earl of Sandwich, a courtier and diplomat under Charles II, which details ‘the King’s receipt’ for chocolate. This is a heavily spiced chocolate that included cinnamon, cardamom, and aniseed.
Combined with other information about chocolate under later kings, Dr Loveman’s work enabled the experts at Hampton Court to make up a recipe that closely resembles the chocolate drunk by royalty in the early eighteenth century.
Dr Loveman said: “My research tracks the social and commercial mechanisms which led to chocolate, which was once a strange and exotic import, becoming an established part of our food culture. Chocolate has always been a luxury and a treat, but it was initially viewed as a decadent and rather dangerous product, one that could cause illness as well as cure it.
“Tracing the history of chocolate helps us to appreciate other kinds of social developments in areas such trade, taxation, and consumer behaviour.”
The opening of the chocolate kitchen is part of a wider celebration of the Georgians across Historic Royal Palaces in 2014, to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Hanoverian Accession to the British throne.
The royal chocolate kitchen at Hampton Court Palace is open daily from 10.00am – 4.30pm. Tickets can be purchased on the day or in advance by telephone 0844 482 7799.
The paper The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640–1730 published in the Journal of Social History is available at: http://jsh.oxfordjournals.org/content/47/1/27.full.pdf+html?sid=eeec8311-35b6-4bcd-b74d-e7e34dc48ee9