HISTORY, ROMANCE AND...CATS!
Grace Elliot leads a double life as a vet by day and author of intelligent historical fiction by night. Grace is an avid reader and believes that smart people need to read romance - as an antidote to the modern world!
Grace is also obsessed by all things feline.
King George, the Chocolatier and Hampton Court Palace
Last week, I was privileged to preview the rediscovered ‘Chocolate Kitchen’ at Hampton Court Palace. On a
blustery, wet day my twin loves of history and chocolate fused (if there’d been
a cat padding round - utter perfection!)
A blustery day at Hampton Court Palace
The story behind the rooms is that of a king who loved hot
chocolate. Out of his own purse (rather than the publicly funded privy purse),
King George I employed a personal chocolatier, Thomas Tosier. It was Tosier’s
job to roast and grind the cocoa beans, mix them into the rich spicy blend and
serve it to his king.
The room where the actual cup of cocoa would be prepared.
In recent times used as a storeroom and now restored to its Georgian function.
Way before the days of instant hot chocolate, to create the
perfect cup of cocoa cost a small fortune and was a hallmark of wealth and
opulence. The expenses incurred by the royal household paid for out of the Privy
Purse were well documented, but because Tosier was a private employee, no such
records existed. It was therefore a matter of detective work for the HistoricRoyal Palaces (HRP) restoration team to discover the location of Tosier’s
The room where the beans were roasted
The rooms were eventually located in the Baroque part of the
palace, the Fountain Court. This is a short walk away from the main Tudor
kitchen, which prevented the precious cocoa beans from being tainted by the
smell of meat and fish. In all, there are three chocolate rooms. The first for
roasting and preparing the beans, has a rare Georgian folding table, original
shelving, a smoke jack for roasting and charcoal ovens. The second room contains
the equipment and spices for grinding and blending. The third kitchen was where the
final cup of cocoa would be created, complete with authentic reproductions of Georgian cocoa cups.
Beans being ground over on a granite slab
over a low heat.
Tosier’s famous skill came from knowing if the finer he
ground the beans, the more flavor was released. He used a saddle shaped granite
slab with a low heat beneath, and a granite rolling pin, to grind the beans.
Then he added spices such as grains of paradise, chilies, aniseed and all
spice, to create the flavor favored by the king. Georgian hot chocolate was
less sweet, and spicier than the modern palate is accustomed to.
The Fountain Court -
away from the smell of the busy main kitchens.
modern visitor can use all of his/her senses and taste hot chocolate through
the ages (Stuart, Georgian, Victorian and modern) by purchasing a tasting
platter at the café. [As a chocoholic myself, I was surprised at how much I
preferred the Stuart cocoa – with its chilli, pepper and cardamom taste –
compared to the more familiar Victorian flavor that was sickly sweet to say the
The hot chocolate tasting platter.
From left to right:
Modern, Victorian, Georgian and Stuart cocoas.
Hampton Court Palace is hugely evocative of Tudor history,
but with opening of the Georgian Tudor chocolate kitchen a new dimension has
been added. In contrast to the pies and meat associated with the impressive
Tudor kitchens (worth a visit in their own right), the visitor glimpses the sophistication
and opulence of the 18th century. The opening of the ChocolateKitchen is part of a wider celebration of the Georgians taking place across the
Historic Royal Palaces in 2014 – to mark the 300th anniversary of
George I’s Accession to the British throne.
Many thanks to the lovely people at the Historic RoyalPalaces for giving me the opportunity to preview the kitchens.
Next week’s post is a more personal look at Thomas Tosier and his wife,
Grace Tosier - wife of Thomas
More of her next week.