Chocolate, that magical substance that smoothes out the rough parts of our lives. Those of us who have been living with the Grantville “disaster” these past years are reconciled to the fact that we will never have chocolate again. It isn’t available in Germany in 1632.

Or is it?

The basic ingredients of the chocolate we know today are sugar, cocoa, vanilla and milk. Of the four, we know that milk is available, at least seasonally.


Sugar has been around for a very long time. Prehistorically, the natives in the Malaysian peninsula knew and used the sweet reeds that grew on their islands. Because of the ease in transplanting and splitting the roots, sugar cane became one of mankind’s earliest domesticated crops.

It took several hundred years for the cane to migrate through Southeast Asia to India. Every place that cane arrived, people tried sticking it into the ground themselves, and a new crop was born.

It may have been when the cane reached India—or it may have been somewhere else—but at some point it was discovered that if you boiled the cane for the juice, you got a thick black syrup. And if you added certain substances such as alkali or ash and then boiled some more, and skimmed the grass-like pieces from the top, crystals would form. Thus, sugar was born.

By about 500 BCE, sugar was well-known in India. The army of Alexander the Great encountered sugar around 325 BCE, and wrote about it in their reports. Some conjecture that this is when Egypt was introduced to the sweet cane, but there is no concrete proof of that.

Sugar as we know it in crystallized forms seems to have been standardized by about 600 AD in Persia. The experts were the Nestorian Christians. Some references claim that sugar cane products to that time were limited to the juice, syrup, and thick molasses, and that it was brought to a solid form by the Nestorians.

Whatever the case, the sugar industry exploded around 600 AD. Sugar was traded throughout the areas of the new religion, Islam. When the Europeans came to the Middle East on crusade, they knew of sugar, which had been traded in small quantities before that time. Now they took a hand in the farming—and more importantly—the processing of sugar. Egypt became a center for production, as did the islands of the Mediterranean.

One of the propagated myths in history is that Marco Polo brought sugar back from China in the thirteenth century, but he comments in his writings about the differences between Chinese sugar production and more familiar Egyptian processes. Sugar came to Europe much earlier than the myth proposes. In 1090, the Normans invaded Sicily, and ownership of sugar production moved firmly into European hands.

In 1494, Columbus took sugar cane from his wife’s family in Madeira to the Caribbean. It was much sought after all over Europe. Apothecaries and pharmacies considered it one of the essential ingredients for their medicines.

I have found two German cookbooks on the internet that have been translated into English, and modern experimentation has begun in each described receipt to determine what sort of dish is intended. One must remember that, in most cases, cookbooks from the medieval times were a set of notes kept by the head cook of a large household, with instructions for certain dishes. There are no existent recipes for bread, as everyone who made bread already knew the method, and didn’t need a recipe. So the dishes in this sort of list are the ones that the cook learned from somewhere else, or the ones written down to remember and use on occasion.

The first book is titled: Ein Buch von Guter Spise ( A Book of Good Food) [] written between 1345 and 1354. There are ninety-six dishes described in it and, by my count, fifteen of them mention sugar, to the sixteen that call for honey. From other sources, it would be easy to see that sugar is expensive and difficult to get in the middle of the fourteenth century.

The second book is called Sabrina Welserin Cookbook, from 1553 []. Of the two hundred five listed dishes, eighty-five call for sugar, and only five call for honey.

That means that in the near two hundred years between these two works, both written in German, the ratio of sugar to honey went from almost equal honey to sugar in the 1350s (16:15) to almost no honey mentioned in the 1550s (5:85). Either there was a great dearth of honey in the latter period, or sugar was much more common in 1550.

In 1581, Abraham Orrelius, a Flemish cartographer, would comment that “what used to be kept by the apothecaries for sick people only is now commonly devoured out of gluttony.”

The Portuguese were responsible for some of the spread of sugar out of the Mediterranean. They discovered several island groups around the west of Africa; these included Madeira, the Canary islands, and Cape Verde. Sugar cane and sugar production were introduced in all of these tropical locations. When settlements came to Central and South America, so did sugar.

By 1470, sugar refineries were found in the cities of Venice, Bologna, and Antwerp. The European model was for the raw sugar to be minimally processed on the sugar plantations scattered all over the tropics, and then the raw black syrup was transported to Europe for final processing. This way, the West kept control of sugar. By 1496, Madeira was shipping 1700 tons of sugar to Venice, Genoa, Flanders and England. And that was just one production site. It is true that by 1600 Madeira had suffered a sugar blight, and been planted in grapevines for their now-famous wine. But production and demand continued to expand throughout this time period.

It is already canon that sugar is available in Grantville and being traded. In “White Gold” by Kerryn Offord (Grantville Gazette, Volume 9), sugar was estimated as eighty dollars a pound. The source for his information is from a man named N. W. Posthmus, a scholar of the 1940s. He has tabulated shipments of many kinds to the docks of Amsterdam from 1350 through the late 1700s. Our experts in Grantville canon have decided that the most reliable source we have to date is Posthmus, so we go with the prices he provides, making suitable adjustments for transport and middlemen.

When we start to think about acquiring sugar in Germany during the war, we should first acquaint ourselves with the various grades and costs of sugar, muscovado and molasses. What we think of as normal white sugar was available in this period, but not necessarily in tidy paper bags. It was crystallized and then shipped in loaf shapes. When the cook or homemaker wanted a measured amount of sugar, they would rub the loaf with a sort of rasp. The resulting sugar crystals would be very white and not a consistent size, ranging from a very fine powder to about the size of a pencil lead because of the rasping process.

Other grades of sugar were also available. There were loaves of sugar that were not as thoroughly refined as the top-of-the-line sugar. Possibly referred to as “cooking sugar,” these loaves would be less expensive, and also more strong tasting. They would also be less white. What we know today as brown sugar was probably not available, as brown sugar is refined white sugar crystals with molasses added back to give it moisture and flavor. Those who could not afford the crystallized sugar were still able to buy molasses. Molasses was readily available to almost every class of consumer; the darkness of the grade to determined the lower cost.

In the seventeenth century, sugar was one of the largest money-making projects for investors. It was being grown, refined, and sold by the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French, Italians, and anyone else who could wedge their way into the business. Sugar was available for different prices depending on the weather, money exchange, and your political relations with whoever was selling. With so many suppliers, Grantville can shop around for the best deal.

Because of Grantville’s connection with the traders in Venice, and its nearness to Amsterdam, it is not only possible, but highly probable that sugar is shipped into town as regularly as coffee. In fact, it may be in more demand and more easily acquired than the mystic black beans.


This very fragrant and mystic substance is not, as some would assume, the “opposite” of chocolate, but it is an essential ingredient in confectionery chocolate. Vanilla is possibly the most pleasant discovery the Europeans found in Central Mexico. The Aztecs, as the dominant tribe of the area, demanded taxes of vanilla from the small tribes that inhabited the jungles of the Yucatan. They also had a whole class of merchants who traveled to the jungles of the south to trade in vanilla and chocolate, and provide it to their noble class. More about them in the section about chocolate.

In 1520, Cortez was well-acquainted with the flavor, smell and availability of vanilla pods. Many of his hired native mercenaries were of the tribes sending tribute to the hated Aztecs.

Vanilla is the ripened seed pod of a particular orchid that was originally found from Southern Mexico down into Guatemala, on the Gulf Coast. The orchids have since been carried around the world and are raised on plantations in all tropical zones. Of the thousands of varieties of orchid that have been classified, not including the numerous hybrids, the vanilla orchid is the only orchid that produces any kind of fruit source for mankind. And of the 150 varieties of vanilla orchid indigenous around the world, the only one that produces the fragrant fruit is that of the Gulf Coast.

The history of vanilla is tightly tied to that of chocolate. It is thought that the Olmecs of Mexico were the first ones to find and use the pods for flavoring. These were the same people to first cultivate cacao, but more on that later. The vanilla was an important ingredient of Atloe, a beverage of Mezzo-America. It consists, even today, of corn masa, water, and vanilla beans. Atoles can be either sweet or savory. There are many variations, either served hot or cold depending on the time of day, and the meal being served.

Vanilla production is a difficult process. The orchid grows on a huge vine that loops up and down trees in the rain forest. And because of the climate, and the size of the vine, the pods do not ripen at the same time. They swell and burst at unexpected moments. If they burst before you can harvest them, you have lost that pod entirely.

Another difficulty with the vanilla flower is that they are very choosy about fertilization. There is a very rare type of bee in the Yucatan that pollinates the vanilla orchids so that the vine can bring the seed pods to fruition. Early entrepreneurs who brought cuttings of the vanilla orchid home to Europe were never successful in actually having vanilla pods appear, even in hot houses in Spain and England. It was some little time before the process was understood, and a method developed to pollinate the flowers for a plantation. Since the flowers appear at dawn and are wilted by the afternoon, growers must maintain constant vigilance for new flowers to pollinate and ripe pods to harvest, in an on-going frantic madhouse.

Even an un-burst vanilla pod does not mean that you have anything of worth. The pod has no detectable scent at all. The curing process can take from six to nine months, and is also very labor-intensive. Because of the intense handwork involved in pollinating and then harvesting the ripe but un-burst pods, then processing them into a fragrant flavoring, vanilla is one of the most labor-intensive products per weight in the known world.

Vanilla first arrived in Europe as a medicinal ingredient. The theory of humors at the time was very prevalent, and all foodstuffs from the New World were thought to be “hot.” While it is certain that the chili peppers were definitely hot, and even chocolate could fit into that category, vanilla doesn’t seem to fall into the same classification.

There is a great deal of disagreement in various food sources about the availability of vanilla in Germany by the 1630s, and the experts in chocolate do not agree with the experts in vanilla. According to Patricia Rain, known as the Vanilla Queen, as the peoples of Europe experienced this wondrous and fragrant flavoring, the demanded skyrocketed. By 1635 chocolate houses were all the rage in Germany, France, and the Iberian peninsula. And chocolate was very rarely served or consumed without vanilla. Finding vanilla separate from chocolate may be a different problem, though.

Patricia Rain, author of Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance wrote:

“It is interesting to note the role that the Jews played in sugar, vanilla and chocolate production. When the Dutch created the Dutch West India Company, they needed colonizers and offered money to those who would come to the Caribbean. Many of the Jews who had fled to Amsterdam in the previous century signed up to travel to the new colonies. Word spread quickly, and Jews from Azores and Italy joined them. They established flourishing sugar plantations near Recife in northern Brazil, only to be forced to leave along with the Dutch twenty years later as the Portuguese gained control of Brazil. They moved to Barbados, Cayenne (now the Republic of Guiana), and Pomeroon (now French Guyana). They were the experts in sugar production, and in growing cacao and vanilla.

“David and Rafael Mercado, the brothers that invented the process and machinery for refining sugar experienced the same jealousy and hatred that Jews were experiencing in Europe. They were denied the right to hold slaves or indentured servants in the Caribbean. As sugar required large numbers of workers, the brothers decided to go to the growth and production of cacao and vanilla. They quickly secured a monopoly in the vanilla trade, sending the much-desired flavor to their merchant friends and families in Europe. This remained the case until 1690 when the French plundered Pomeroon, and the Jewish monopoly came to an end.”

So, again, our up-timers in Grantville may have a way to buy vanilla as easily, if not more easily, than coffee. The connections through both the Jewish commodities and the merchants in Venice indicate that both vanilla and chocolate are not only available, but bought and sold by others in the immediate area.


There are many species of the cacao pod, but only two produce the chocolate that we so crave. The tree known as Theobroma cacao is found in tropical rain forests from central Mexico all the way into the Amazon basin. But with this wide spread, it is not surprising that two different species developed in different places.

In Mesoamerica, the cacao trees, known as criollo variant, have long, pointed, warty, soft and deeply ridged pods which contained seed with white cotyledons. That is, the fruit of the criollo is white, containing the seeds. The forastero South American trees grow hard, round, melon-like pods, and the seeds are nestled in purplish cotyledons.

These two trees, and their hybrids provide raw materials for all modern chocolate industry. The criollo possesses flavor and aroma that are absent from the forastero. Why grow the forastero? The criollo trees are susceptible to diseases and rot, and produce few pods. So the forastero is cultivated, as a hardier, heavier producer.

Who in history was the first to find cacao as a valuable food source? We have often been told that it was the Aztecs, but archaeologists today know this is not true. It was not even Cortez who first encountered the cacao pod. Columbus, on his fourth voyage, traded with a Mayan canoe for a cacao pod, and brought it home with him. The Aztecs only knew as much about chocolate as the expert cacao cultivators in southern Mexico and Guatemala told them.

Aztec society had three noble classes. The royals, or ruling families, the priesthood, keeping tight control on the people through fear and human sacrifice, and the merchant class. The major source of income and status for members of the merchant class was in acquiring and trading cacao beans. The rest of Aztec society was either the warriors, who were paid in cacao beans, and the peasants, who raised the rest of the food and did the majority of the work that kept society together.

The Aztecs had a concept of money. They used cacao beans. In fact, they were so concerned about wealth and how many cacao beans they could collect that there were even some very clever counterfeiters that made fake cacao beans. They were very difficult to detect, made of hardened clay and painted meticulously to resemble the real thing.

As the Aztecs moved everything in their trade on foot, the caravans of cacao beans were long strings of men with backpacks. And each backpack contained exactly 24,000 beans.

Much of my information about chocolate comes from The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. To demonstrate how wealthy Motecuhzoma (Montezuma) was at the time of Cortez’s conquest, we have the account of Pedro de Alvarado, one of the more avaricious of the Spaniards:

One night, when the Aztec ruler was held captive in his own palace, about 300 Indian servants of the Spaniards broke into the storehouse, and worked until sunrise to cart off as much cacao as they could. This came to Alvarado’s ears, and he enlisted the aid of one Alonso de Ojeda, who was guarding Motecuhzoma: “When you have turned over your watch and see that it is time, call me, for I also want part of that cacao.” They went there with fifty persons, presumably also Indian servants.

Alonso, seeing that it was almost daylight, and they were running out of time, cut the bands of three wicker bins in the warehouse, allowing the cacao beans inside to spill out. His men stuffed their skirts and mantles. Each bin held 600 loads of beans, each load having 24,000 beans. Alvarado and his fellow thieves made off with 43,200,000 beans, and it was not a twentieth of the Emperor’s stock.

To give you an idea of the value of a cacao bean, we have the partial list of commodity prices in Tlaxcala in 1545:

· One good turkey hen is worth 100 full cacao beans or 120 shrunken beans.

· A turkey cock is worth 200 cacao beans.

· A hare or forest rabbit is worth 100 cacao beans each

· A small rabbit is worth 30.

· One turkey egg is worth 3 cacao beans.

· An avocado, newly picked, is worth 3 cacao beans; when it is fully ripe, only 1 bean.

· One large tomato will be equivalent to a cacao bean.

· A large sapote fruit, or two small ones, is equal to a cacao bean.

· A large axolotl (larval salamander, an Aztec delicacy) is worth 4 cacao beans.

· A tamale is exchanged for a cacao bean

· Fish wrapped in maize husks is worth 3 cacao beans.

The Spanish tried to get the Aztec merchants to evaluate beans by weight, as was done in Europe. The Aztecs had no system of weights when Europeans arrived. The Spaniards gave up this idea when they were constantly cheated in the weights because of rocks or other debris. They went back to the system of counting each bean to determine how rich one was. Possibly, this gave rise to the term “bean counter” in modern society.

The Spaniards were more than happy to trade with this “happie money” as they called it. But after the conquest, when trade was not only in cacao beans, but in gold and silver as well, those clever Aztec counterfeiters turned their arts on the coin of Spain, and began to reproduce the gold and silver as well as the cacao bean.

When the Spanish arrived in Central America, they encountered peoples drinking the cacahuatl (ca-ca-wa-tay) made of these ground beans, mixed with other flavorings such as vanilla, achiote and chilies. The Maya called it chacau haa, or chocol haa (depending where in the Yucatan one hears it) which means “hot water.” The Europeans saw the “savages” drinking something that disgusted almost every man who witnessed this practice. First of all, the natives always poured it back and forth from cup to cup to make it foam. It was dark colored, and they thought of the foam on top as “scum.”

And then there was the name. Most of Europe understood the Latinate of “caca” as feces or offal. And to hear the natives rave about this scummy mixture, and offer it to their guests as a great honor, calling it “caca-something” caused the Spanish to avoid drinking it as long as possible. Imagine for a moment their horror at the thought of drinking something that looked like that!

The word chocolate isn’t a part of Nauhuatl, the Aztec language. In order to avoid offending those of the Old Country when they imported these cacao beans, the Spaniards took the “chocol” from the Maya, and added it to the Aztec “huatl” and invented a whole new word “chocolhuatl” pronounced “choco-la-tay” for the name of this new beverage. It was so much easier to stomach than anything associated with “caca.”

Another problem with introducing this beverage to Europe was the taste. The Aztecs took it cold and savory with chilies and the bitter chocolate. They relished the bitterness and the darkness of the cacao, and in their religion it even was symbolic of blood. It was quaffed as a symbol of the ties between the gods and life and death, and sacrificed to the gods, both as beans and the drink.

The colonists in New Spain drank chocolate every day, but were not pleased with the bitterness of the drink. They began changing the recipe to please their palates, adding first honey and, later, sugar. Europeans also liked it better hot, as the Mayan made it.

The chocolate addiction in New Spain (Mexico City) was more among the ladies of the Spanish colonists than among the men. After a dinner party, the men went into the salon to smoke tobacco and drink brandy, while the women went into the sitting room to visit and drink hot chocolate. These women became so fond of chocolate that they took it two and three times a day. In fact, the Bishop of New Spain petitioned the Pope for a writ to be issued against the use of chocolate because the ladies would come to Mass and the sermon would be interrupted several times when one or another of the ladies’ maids would come into the cathedral with a cup of frothy chocolate.

Unfortunately for the Bishop, another faction that was deep into the drinking and importation of chocolate was the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits were not only concerned with obtaining enough chocolate for their own use, they became a real force for the spread and importation of cacao beans, and introduction of the delicacy to European palates.

Spain became very involved with chocolate through the 1500s. There was not a noble drawing room without a chocolate service, including specialized cups and vase or pitcher for the frothing of the drink. The aristocracy were completely enamored with the elixir.

The medical community of the time thought that chocolate should be taken every day to maintain a healthy balance of “humors.” Medical wisdom then current held that there were four fluids of the human body. The chart below shows the fluid, its properties and the Organ from which they emanate





Warm and moist


Yellow bile

Warm and dry

Gall Bladder

Black bile

Cold and dry



Cold and moist


It was thought that any disease or malady was caused by an imbalance of one or another of these humors. The cure, therefore, would be to take food of the nature of the opposite to your supposed imbalance.

Some of the first experts who evaluated food from the New World saw chocolate as cold and dry, probably because of its unfortunate naming. Since it was usually prepared with vanilla, considered hot because of its mythical “venal” properties, both chocolate and vanilla were thought at one time or another to be aphrodisiacs. Since the chocolate was cold and the vanilla was hot, as were the chilies (speaking of humor and not flavor), some physicians thought that taking chocolate would balance most imbalances a person would have. In other words, chocolate, for a while, was the equivalent of an apple a day.

Modern Chocolate

It wasn’t until the Industrial Age that chocolate became anything we would recognize. In 1765, Dr. James Baker of Massachusetts and his partner John Hannon from Ireland invented a process that attached rollers to a grist mill. This process made chocolate cheap enough for the working masses because it took out the handwork. We know this company today as Bakers Chocolate, which we can all buy in the supermarket.

In Holland, Van Houten invented a process to remove half of the cocoa butter and allow the chocolate to be ground into a fine powder (cocoa powder) in 1828. The alkalines added to defat the cacao darkened the chocolate to the color we are familiar with.

In France and Italy in the late 1700s, chefs began to experiment with chocolate, adding it to crèmes and puddings, ice cream, wafers, cakes and confections. The infamous Marquis de Sade was a confirmed chocoholic, and was always writing to his wife from prison asking for chocolate confections.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the medical community was finally able to leave the Galenic theory of Humors behind, and people could eat according to taste and finances, and not have to try to match their symptoms with the right kind of food. This was the same time that the British moved to wean their navy from grog. The company of J. S. Fry & Sons became the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world because of their exclusive contract with the Royal Navy. Their competitor in England, Cadbury, kept up by obtaining royal privilege as purveyors of chocolate to Queen Victoria. Cadbury was also the first to introduce the chocolate box, containing candies and decorated with a painting of Cadbury’s young daughter Jessica holding a kitten.

The Victorian era was also a time of rampant food adulteration. As the demand for chocolate for all classes of society continued to rise, unscrupulous companies were known to add such things as powdered dried peas, flour, potato starch, iron rust, pulverized cacao shells, gum, dextrin, or even ground brick to stretch the chocolate. Some even removed all the cacao butter to sell somewhere else. It was replaced with olive oil, sweet almond oil, egg yolks, or suet of veal or mutton. This caused the resulting product to go rancid very quickly.

The British Food and Drug Act of 1860 and the Adulteration of Food Act of 1872 drove chocolate companies to show the percentage of real chocolate in their product. Today the English are great consumers of chocolate, eating more per capita than America, even though the product is still seventy percent sugar.

The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 in the United States finally forced unscrupulous manufacturers to do the same thing. The act was brought on by Teddy Roosevelt after he read the novel “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. The president decided that enough was enough.

From the beginning of the nineteenth century, many chocolate factories opened in Switzerland, and today the Swiss are the number one consumers of chocolate, eating eleven pounds per person per year compared to America’s five pounds per person per year. It was in Switzerland that milk was most successfully added to chocolate. That process was a collaboration between Henri Nestle, the man who discovered the process to make powdered milk, and Daniel Peter, who came up with the method to use the powdered milk with the powdered chocolate to create eating chocolate. The first milk chocolate bar was produced in 1879. The process was simple; they dried out the moisture in the mix and replaced it with cacao butter, so that it could be poured into a mold.

That same year, Rudolph Lindt invented “conching” which rolls the cacao beans for up to seventy-two hours, and heats the beans enough that sometimes they can skip the roasting process altogether. Jean Tobler, inventor of Toblerone, invented “tempering.” This means that the temperature of the chocolate liquor is raised, then carefully lowered so that the crystal structure of the fat may be destroyed. This is what makes our modern chocolate so smooth and glossy. It is a vital step in the finest chocolate, which has a high percentage of cacao butter added back in.

Another problem with defatted cocoa powder, is that it is very difficult to get it to mix with milk or water, especially for cold applications. To overcome this, manufacturers have been adding a wetting agent, or emulsifier. The agent of choice is soy lecithin, made for soy beans. It is a cheaper than egg yolks, and can also give a good balance to the chocolate without changing the flavor.

The story of chocolate in the United States of America would be incomplete without a word about Hershey. Milton S. Hershey was born in Pennsylvania in 1857. As a youth, he was apprenticed as a confectioner, and at the age of nineteen opened his own candy shop.

Almost twenty years later, after visiting a World’s Fair, and seeing how chocolate was produced in Europe, he decided that chocolate was his calling. He went to Europe and toured confectioners in England and on the continent, then sold his candy business for a million dollars, quite a lot of money in 1893.

With those funds, he bought a large dairy farm in Pennsylvania and built the company town of Hershey, so that he could mechanize the making of chocolate. All the milk that went into his chocolate was from his dairy farms that surrounded the town. All the sugar came from Hershey, Cuba, where he mechanized that process, and bought two electric railroads to carry sugar and passengers to the port and to Havana. The company maintained ownership of this production in Cuba until Castro “nationalized” it.

Hershey was not so much a robber baron as the railroad tycoons or the mine owners, some of whom built towns for the workers in their factories. He was more of a socialist in his attitudes and believed that happy and successful workers were more productive than mere wage slaves. While the town did not have its own government, and he lived in a mansion patterned after George Washington’s Mount Vernon, he did not rule as a despot. He built five churches, an industrial school for orphaned boys, a hospital, schools, and a golf course. It was everything he wanted in his ideal American town.

Hershey took all that he learned in Europe, then bought his beans from selected sites in Central and South America, Ceylon, and Java. He bought the new conching and molding machinery from Switzerland, and took America by storm. By the 1920s, his factory was turning out 50,000 pounds of cocoa powder a day. In the 1980s, no less than 25 million Hershey’s Kisses rolled off the lot per day. Hershey died at the age of 85, quietly, in the hospital he had built for his company town. Chocolate was never the same again.

Chocolate Processing

In today’s modern world, the chocolate we buy in the supermarket is already highly processed. Even the unsweetened baking chocolate would not be recognizable to the Aztecs who introduced chocolate to Europe.

The process for chocolate begins with the pods. Before the beans are removed, the pods must be aged or “fermented.” This means that they need to sit for a couple of days in a specific environment and allow the moist fruit around the seeds to soften and change the flavor of the beans.

Next, the beans are roasted and winnowed to remove the hulls. Then they are ground in a heated system. In the sixteenth century this was a mortar and pestle with a brazier underneath it. Then the cocoa nibs from this process were taken to a heated metate, which is a flat stone with a cylindrical roller called a mano. This cylinder is moved by hand to grind the nibs to a paste. Heat is needed in this process because chocolate is more than fifty percent cocoa butter. The resulting paste is difficult to dry because of the high fat content.

On the metate is where the other ingredients are added, such as the spices, sugar, vanilla, or chilies. When the paste is smooth and ready, it was put into brown paper covered molds and left to harden. These wafers were not anything like we would expect of edible chocolate. It was dry and brittle, very very hard. It could be chopped, added to hot water and frothed for a drink, but it was rare that anyone would eat it directly.


So where does all this information get us? In 1629 to 1630, before the Ring of Fire, there was probably no chocolate for sale in Germany outside of the northern port cities, or the southern Bavarian cities, such as Munich. Because Spain has tried so hard to keep a monopoly on chocolate, it is slow to become known in Germany. France and Holland were early exposed to its richness, as were the Hapsburgs. But if the Ring of Fire had not delivered Americans in the beginning of this decade, it would be close to thirty years before the habit of chocolate houses and drinking of chocolate, coffee and tea would catch on in central Germany and the northern parts of Europe.

But with the financial connections in Grantville, chocolate is already being traded. There are already people in town with their own supplies of cacao nibs. These are not anywhere near commercial quantities. With the transported Americans craving Snickers and M&Ms, the demand for chocolate would probably outstrip the demand for coffee.

The chocolate that is bought is not the chocolate that Grantville is expecting. What will be imported will be the cacao beans and the professional chocolatier who knows the process of grinding and mixing. Europeans are enjoying sweetmeats and other delicacies of sugar, but chocolate of this time is strictly for drinking. No one has thought of eating solid chocolate, because it does not look like anything you want to bite.

The Grantvillers will need to build their own versions of the processes of dutching, conching, and tempering, which will be intensive and time consuming, as well as expensive. As there are many Jews that are displaced from Spain at the moment, it is not inconceivable that one of them would be a master chocolatier, who is an expert of grinding and mixing cacao paste. These people would be more than happy to ply their profession for the Theobroma-starved masses of up-timers in the USE. It may be a couple of years before we get Toblerone, but brownies and fudge should be available by 1633 of the Ring of Fire. And because of the demand the chocolate eaters of Grantville, by 1634, we will have modern chocolate.


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A Feast for the Eyes by Gillian Riley

Sugar 101 Wherein Rose Levy Beranbaum, the high priestess of pastry, answers all your questions and learns that the wide, wide world of sugar is, indeed, a very, very sweet place to live by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Food Arts Magazine. 2000

“Tacuinum Sanitatis” and “Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina”. Spenser, J. (translator) 1983, The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti, (Tacuinum Sanitatis in Medicina), Facts on File Publications NY, NY Luisa Cogliati Arano, 1976, The Medieval Health Handbook (“Tacuinum Sanitatis”) George Braziller Inc. NY, NY

Sugar Plums and Sherbet: The Prehistory of Sweets by Laura Mason

Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Most Popular Flavor and Fragrance by Patricia Rain. 2004. Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England., by Dr. Robert J. Lancashire, The Department of Chemistry, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Kingston 7, Jamaica. – Feb 1995

Vanilla; its botany, history, cultivation and economic import by Donovan S. Correll. New York: Society for Economic Botany, 1953

The Culture History of Mexican Vanilla by Henry Bruman 1948

The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe. Thames and Hudson, Ltd, London. 1996. ISBN 0 500 0169303

Chocolate, the Food of the Gods by Chantal Coady Chronicle Books, CA Copyright 1993

Tastes of Paradise: a Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Pantheon 1992. English translation by David Jacobson; original German is Paradies, der Geschmack und die Vernunft. From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate by Louis E. Grivetti University of California at Davis This is tourist information about The Modican Chocolate, in Sicily.