As a Dutch prince, William III had his preferred chocolate sent directly from Holland which had a well-established trade link with South America. Public chocolate houses would have imported it from British colonies who were competing and driving down prices, making chocolate more affordable but still only for the rich.
Chocolate was introduced to England in the 1650s. It was a drink – it wasn’t until the 19th century that the removal of cocoa butter created solid chocolate. Georgian chocolate would have been made mixed with water, milk, or wine.
Chocolate was a very fashionable and expensive drink for the aristocracy. Kings and queens would take chocolate for chocolate for breakfast. It was usually drunk during the levee, accompanied by sweetmeats from the confectionary.
As drinking chocolate grew in popularity, chocolate houses were set up throughout London. The import taxes on cocoa beans were far greater than tea and coffee, which made chocolate an expensive drink.
Chocolate houses were for the elite. Jonathan Swift described a famous chocolate house as ‘the common rendezvous for the infamous sharpers; and noble cullies’. Glamorous courtiers and foreign dignitaries visited Thomas Tosier’s chocolate house in Greenwich. Indeed many of London’s exclusive gentleman’s clubs like White’s began life as chocolate houses.
William III arrived in England from Holland in 1689 bringing with him a love of chocolate. The Dutch had a long history of trading and drinking chocolate and the king especially enjoyed drinking it. William had kitchens built at several palaces especially to make chocolate and employed his own chocolate maker. As well as the kitchen at Hampton Court Palace that you can visit today, we have records of him building chocolate kitchens at Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle.
Having your own private chocolate kitchen became fashionable. The very rich began building them in large country houses such as Dyrham Park and Dawley House.