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European vs. American Tastes and Trends: Comparing Cardullo’s and CVS’s Chocolate

Chocolate is a delicious commodity enjoyed throughout the world.  However, chocolate tastes and consumption patterns vary from region to region.  For example, chocolate produced for Americans is often made very sweet, contains less cacao and cocoa butter, and many times becomes an impulse buy or guilty pleasure.  Chocolate is also heavily marketed towards children in the United States, and most of the chocolate consumed by Americans is from Big Chocolate companies such as Hershey.  However, in many European countries, chocolate is often more luxurious and rich, is complemented with a variety of fruity and spicy flavors, and is marketed more towards the adult population.  In addition, European chocolate is often more expensive given its target audience and higher cacao content.  It is important to note that each country within Europe makes chocolate slightly different and has its own unique consumption trends, but in general, most European chocolate is made with more sophistication and higher quality ingredients when compared to American chocolate which is often heavily corporatized and mass-produced.  The differences between American and European chocolate are so stark that we can even witness them when comparing the chocolate found in international stores in the United States to the chocolate sold in American grocery stores.  For the purposes of this paper, the chocolate sold in Cardullo’s and CVS will be compared and contrasted in order to demonstrate the differences between European and American chocolate.  It will be argued that variations in ingredients, target audiences, and packaging are what influence and distinguish European and American chocolate tastes, advertising, and consumption trends.

Cardullo’s is a gourmet shop in Harvard Square that sells food ranging from fresh deli meats to jams to dried pasta.  Many people, including myself, believe that the store is meant to be reflective of a European shop or cafe because the store sells mainly imported brands and gives off an international vibe with its rustic and crowded interior.  What is interesting is that the only thing I have ever purchased from Cardullo’s has been chocolate, and when I revisited the store this past week I realized why: their chocolate selection is outstanding!  Moreover, four out of the five times I bought chocolate from Cardullo’s, the chocolate wasn’t even for me, it was meant to be a gift for someone else.

When I think about why I chose Cardullo’s for the chocolate gifts, it was because I wanted my present to feel unique, luxurious, and thoughtful.  I was not about to buy someone special a plain Hershey’s bar or a bag of Reese’s.  I knew that Cardullo’s sold European chocolate brands and felt that European chocolate was high quality.  I feel that this is a common perception, that European chocolate is more luxurious and better than American chocolate.  This bias may be based on the idea that European chocolate often contains more cacao and cocoa butter than American chocolate, which is considered a sign of quality.  This is because the United States only requires its chocolate to contain 10% cacao, while in Europe to be considered “chocolate”, a bar must be at least 20% cacao (Gourmet Boutique).  Many argue that American chocolate producers care more about cost than quality when it comes to their chocolate which is why they use lower quality ingredients and mass-produce their chocolate unlike many European companies (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  American chocolate companies using less cacao in their bars dates back to the beginnings of the Mars Company.  Frank Mars tried several times to create a popular chocolate bar and eventually ran himself into debt (Brenner, 53).  However, once he and his son invented the Milky Way in 1923 (which is chocolate nugget covered in a thin layer of chocolate) the company’s costs of production fell drastically because the bars contained less cacao (Brenner, 54-55).  The bars immediately became popular because they were larger and cheaper than the other current chocolate bar at the time, Hershey’s (Brenner, 55).  It was partially Mar’s usage of a cheaply made filled bar that led other American chocolate producers to try to use less cacao in their bars.  The fact that the Hershey company mass-manufactured and got people habituated to milk chocolate with less cacao may be another reason why Americans accept chocolate with a lower cacao content today.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the imported chocolate at Cardullo’s did contain a significant amount of cacao, the lowest cacao content I saw being 23% in a standard chocolate bar.  Most of the imported European chocolate also highlighted the cacao percentage on the front of their packaging, which is something I do not recall being included on most American-produced chocolate wrappers (see Figure 1 below).  This marketing tactic enables European chocolate producers to tout the high levels of cacao they are using (Wolke).

Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)
Figure 1: European Chocolate Wrappers with Cacao Content on the Front vs. An American Hershey Bar

I remember that selecting the chocolate gifts at Cardullo’s was extremely difficult because of the wide variety of chocolate brands and flavors they sold.  On one occasion, I had trouble deciding and ended up buying five bars each with a different flavor: chili with cherry, dark milk, 88% dark, orange, and sea salt caramel.  Upon revisiting the shop, I re-discovered some of these specific chocolate bars whose brands were Chocolat Bonnat (France), Valrhona (France), and Dolfin (Belgium).  What enticed me about these particular bars were their intriguing flavors, some of which I had never seen before.  Most of the flavors in Cardullo’s chocolate include nuts, spices, or fruits, which is actually common for European chocolate and contrasts with American chocolate which is usually complemented with caramel, nugget, and other sugary fillings.  These more savory flavors used in European chocolate tie back to the Mesoamerican origins of chocolate.  In fact, several scholars believe that “Europeans developed a taste for Indian chocolate, and they sought to recreate the indigenous chocolate experience” (Norton).  These scholars also claim that this “cross-culturalization of taste” led Europeans to develop an appetite for spices and vanilla (Norton).

I also chose the bars because they had intricate and fancy wrappers that made the chocolate look expensive.  These fancy wrappers are probably a marketing ploy, again to promote the perception that European chocolate is higher in quality and more glamorous.  This perceived quality is also probably factored into the price of the chocolate because the chocolate bars were not the cheapest.  The price of chocolate sold at Cardullo’s ranges from $5-$65 with the pricier chocolate items being gift baskets and large boxes of chocolates.  To me, the prices are justified by the fact that the chocolate is imported and because of the customer base of the shop.  Whether Cardullo’s intends to attract older people or not, their clientele is mainly working men and women and arguably international students.  It is understandable that middle aged and older people visit this store: they can afford the food and have more singular tastes.  It is also interesting to note that chocolate is mainly marketed towards adults in Europe which may be why it is more expensive and takes on a more sophisticated look (Graham).

European chocolate has not always been luxurious or marketed in this way, especially in France.  Today, France creates some of the most artistic, romanticized, and well-known chocolate in the world, but this was not always the case (Terrio, 10).  Until the 1970s, French confections were very traditional and quite plain.  But towards the 1980s, French chocolatiers wanted to re-brand their chocolate and make it more of a specialty item.  In order to do this, they began distinguishing themselves from pastry makers and confectioners, created a new taste standard for bitter dark chocolate, worked with the government and local authorities to establish themselves, and looked to the past to make sure their chocolate had cultural authenticity and didn’t appear mass-produced (Terrio, 12-15).  Finally by 1990, French chocolatiers were being recognized as craftsmen and artisans for their authentic and creative work.  The French chocolatiers were ultimately able to establish themselves because they placed a tremendous amount of time and effort into making small-batch chocolate which contrasted the mass-production and lower quality work conducted at larger chocolate factories and companies at the time (Terrio, 30-35).  Nowadays, there are several fine French chocolate makers such as Valrhona and Bonnat.

Some of my concluding observations about Cardullo’s were that the store mainly sells its chocolates in single bar form as compared to in bulk, but also sells several chocolate confections such as bonbons and truffles.  During my revisit, I also made sure to check the sugar content, fat content, and cacao content of many of the bars in the shop in order to compare them to the chocolate bars in CVS.  Finally, on my way out, I asked an employee what chocolate he preferred, European or American.  He quickly replied, “European of course!  It is much more creamy and rich, and I am pretty sure it doesn’t contain weird ingredients like those used in Hershey’s”.  Another employee chimed in saying, “It is definitely the smoothness that distinguishes the two”.  This smoothness probably derives from the European’s use of extra cocoa butter, or can be attributed to the fact that Europeans (especially the Swiss) prefer smoother chocolate so they conche their chocolate for longer (Presilla, 126).  Studies have found that American chocolate companies typically conche their chocolate for 18-20 hours, whereas Western European chocolate companies conche for 72 hours (Alberts and Cidell, 222).

Now onto CVS.  CVS is a large drug store chain that offers everyday use items from beauty supplies to medications to snacks.  When it comes to chocolate, American CVSs have a surprisingly decent selection.  However, most of the chocolate sold is from Big Chocolate brands such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey, which can be found in most convenience stores.  CVS also carries some semi-luxurious brands such as Lindt and Godiva (both European brands), but on a small scale.  Walking down the candy aisle at CVS was a much different experience than at Cardullo’s.  For one, I actually felt quite overwhelmed by the bright packaging of the chocolate (a common color theme was using yellow or red).  I also noticed that most of the chocolate brands used animated lettering on their wrappers.  This eye-catching color scheme and lettering clearly contrasted Cardullo’s calm and intricate chocolate packaging and is most likely to attract children (see Figure 2 below).  To reiterate, in the United States, chocolate companies often target children in their advertisements.  As a side note, chocolate marketing towards children is actually a highly controversial topic, as it takes advantage of children’s developmental vulnerabilities and may be contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic (Martin).

cardullos vs cvs
Figure 2: Cardullo’s chocolate selection (left) vs. CVS’s selection (right)

Moreover, just like at Cardullo’s, the price of the chocolate at CVS is probably influenced by its targeted population and the type of people who visit the store.  Since American chocolate is mainly marketed to children in the US, and CVS seems to be a weekly stop for the average person, it makes sense that their chocolate prices are extremely reasonable, ranging from $1-$15.  This affordability allows the chocolate to be an impulse or everyday purchase.  Another thing that somewhat differed between Cardullo’s and CVS chocolate was its placement in the store.  The Cardullo’s chocolate was on the wall sort of close to the register as was the CVS chocolate, but CVS also had a row of chocolate bars right under the register to entice impulse buyers.  Chocolate is considered to be more of a guilty pleasure or impulse purchase in America versus in Europe where people eat chocolate more regularly.  This is because in Europe chocolate is viewed as a food rather than an indulgence (Alberts and Cidell, 224).  This is also revealed in reports showing that Europeans consume about half of the world’s chocolate whereas the United States only consumes about 20% (CNN’s “Who consumes the most chocolate?”).  This trend is possible because many European countries consume more chocolate per capita than the US (see Figure 3 below).  Furthermore, in CVS the chocolate treats were mainly in bar form, were often sold in bulk, and did not come in luxury forms such as bonbons or truffles, again speaking to the target audience’s tastes and trends.  This yet again reveals that American chocolate producers value cost over quality.

Figure 3: Top 20 Chocolate Consuming Nations (2012)

Finally, when examining the nutrition labels, it was evident that the chocolate in CVS contained more sugar, less fat from cocoa butter, and less cacao altogether.  For example, a Cadbury Milk Bar from Cardullo’s contained 23% cacao, while a Hershey’s Bar from CVS only contained 11%.  What was even more striking was when comparing the same Cadbury Milk Bars, an imported one from Cardullo’s and one from CVS, the nutrition facts and packaging were not equal (see Figure 4 below for a video of a family comparing the British Cadbury bar to the American one).  It is also interesting to point out that the chocolate sold at Cardullo’s was mainly dark chocolate while CVS was capitalized by milk chocolate.  This may be because children prefer sweeter milk chocolate to bitter dark chocolate which is a more acquired taste, or that dark chocolate is truer to the origin of chocolate which is why it is produced more often for European audiences.  Regardless, this finding is not a coincidence in that Americans prefer lighter milk chocolate and Europeans prefer darker chocolate (Presilla, 119).

Figure 4: Video of a Family Trying a Cadbury Milk Bar from the UK vs. the US

In summary, I found Cardullo’s European chocolate and CVS’s American-produced chocolate to be radically different.  What I discovered was that European chocolate contains more cacao, is occasionally complemented with unique spices and flavors, has more sophisticated packaging, and targets a more mature population.  Moreover Europeans tend to prefer dark chocolate and consume chocolate more regularly than Americans.  On the other hand, American-produced chocolate is sweeter with less cacao and more sugary fillings, utilizes bright and animated wrappers, is often mass-produced, and is marketed more towards children.  With these differences in ingredients, packaging, and target audience, it is no wonder that European and American chocolate tastes, consumption trends, and advertising differ.

For added entertainment, click on this link to see a video of two British boys comparing American and British chocolate bars:

Works Cited:

Alberts, Heike C., and Julie L. Cidell. “Chocolate Consumption Manufacturing and Quality in Western Europe the United States.” Geography (2006): 218-226.

Brenner, Joel Glenn. The emperors of chocolate: Inside the secret world of Hershey and Mars. Broadway, 2000. 48-55.

Graham, Caroline. “Too Sweet, Too Cheap and Full of Ghastly Chemicals – Why Even Americans Can’t Stand American Chocolate.” Daily Mail. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 21 Nov. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2015.–Americans-stand-American-chocolate.html.

Martin, Carla. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Class. Harvard University, Cambridge. 1 Apr. 2015. Lecture.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and The European Internalization Of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111.3 (2006): 660-91. Web. 29 Apr. 2015. html.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 119, 126.

Terrio, Susan Jane. Crafting the culture and history of French chocolate. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. 1-40.

“Who Consumes the Most Chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 2 May 2015.

Wolke, Robert. “Chocolate by the Numbers.” The Washington Post. 9 June 2004. Web. 2 May 2015.

Images Cited:

Figure 1: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 2: My personal IPhone at Cardullo’s and CVS

Figure 3: (Accessed May 1, 2015)

Figure 4: (Accessed April 29, 2015)

Chocolate Ads and the Opacity of the Chocolate Supply Chain

Most chocolate advertisements today focus so much on consumers and sales that they ignore the important social issues that complicate chocolate production.  One such neglected issue, is the opacity and inequality of the chocolate supply chain which enables child labor and exploitation.  Since large chocolate companies have the power, means, and platform to make an impact, they could, and arguably should, be using some of their advertisements to advocate for transparency in the chocolate supply chain.  In doing this, they would be able to raise awareness of this important issue.  In addition, chocolate companies should also commit more money to solving this problem.  These strategies will not only reveal and fix discrepancies in the chocolate supply chain, but will also encourage the general public to be more ethical consumers.

One promotion that could have been used to make such a statement was the wildly popular “Cadbury Eyebrows” commercial that aired in 2009 (Figure 1 below).

In the commercial, viewers witness two young children in nice clothing about to take a school photo.  Then suddenly, the boy plays a tune, and the children start eyebrow dancing.  The video reveals children letting loose and enjoying the moment.  A probable intention of this advertisement is to show that chocolate brings people joy and to encourage children to ask for chocolate.  Although this commercial was well received by the public and makes people laugh, when looked at critically, the ad is irrelevant to chocolate, is overly fixated on consumer entertainment, and demonstrates the opaqueness of the chocolate supply chain.

The fact that the ad isn’t even about chocolate and spends a whole minute entertaining consumers is somewhat troubling.  It implies that chocolate companies may be only focusing their attention on the consumer part of the supply chain rather than making sure there is equality and transparency in the entire chocolate supply chain.  As a matter of fact, studies have shown that there are worrisome issues within the supply chain, but the opacity of the chain makes many consumers and even chocolate companies unaware that these problems exist.  One example is the exploitation of children in the initial stages of chocolate production.  In a 2009 Tulane University study, it was revealed that over 500,000 children working on cocoa farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana “worked in breach of the ILO guidelines and national laws on minimum age and hours” (Ryan, 49).  Furthermore, many of these children were exposed to dangerous conditions and over half reported having an injury (Ryan, 49).  This study reveals that child labor is rampant on cocoa plantations, and most consumers are unaware of it due to the obscurity of the supply chain.

It is important to note that Cadbury has addressed the issues of opacity and exploitative labor in the past and was somewhat successful (Satre, 13-32).  Continuing this mission would make the company look responsible and help them attract socially conscious consumers.  Furthermore, if Cadbury took a public position on these matters, it would enlighten consumers simply because “most people who eat chocolate don’t know where it comes from” (Off, 8).  As a profitable company, Cadbury could also invest money to improve the equality and clarity of the chocolate supply chain.  In general, all large chocolate companies should fund causes that would positively affect the supply chain because “the amounts of money [that could eradicate issues in the supply chain] are not large in comparison to the worldwide profits they make” (Ryan, 44).

Figure 2. “Response” Ad

In response to the “Cadbury Eyebrows” commercial, another advertisement was created to demonstrate how chocolate advertising can be used to make a powerful statement, reveal that opaqueness in the supply chain exists, and highlight that “there is a vast gulf between the [people] who eat chocolate and those who work their whole lives to produce it” (Off, 8) (Figure 2 above).  In the “response” ad, two girls delighting in their Easter basket filled with chocolate confections are contrasted with an African child carrying a basket of cacao pods.  The distinction seems clear: the girls are happy and anticipating the wonderful taste of chocolate while the African child seems malnourished and unhappy. When looking at the ad from left to right, a viewer would at first feel good, but then upon seeing the boy would reflect on the true costs of chocolate.  Therefore, this ad’s intention is to reveal that while chocolate is a tasty treat and it is not necessarily wrong to consume it, there are social issues that need to be addressed.  The ad also encourages people to question and reject companies that utilize harmful child labor because “child labor is not so sweet”.

Another interesting aspect of this “response” ad is that the photo of the African child may not be truly reflective of the supply chain and child labor.  As an image from Google search, the photo of the African child could very well be a boy gathering some cocoa fruit on the family farm instead of an exploited child laborer.  Therefore, in the context of the ad, this photo can not only be used to expose the inequality between consumers and producers, but also highlights the point that there is little transparency in the supply chain by the fact that we don’t really know how to identify child labor.

Overall, the “Cadbury Eyebrows” commercial falls within the larger trend of advertising in which companies focus too much on consumers and overlook the opaqueness and inequalities of the chocolate supply chain.  The “response” ad is meant to serve as an example of what an impactful ad could look like and further reveals that there is a lack of transparency in the chocolate supply chain.  The “response” ad rebels against advertising trends, raises awareness, promotes equality between consumers and producers, and encourages action.  If more chocolate advertisements emulated the “response” ad and chocolate companies used their influence and money to highlight some of the exploitative practices in chocolate production, hidden inequities in the supply chain such as child labor could gradually be reduced (Ryan, 61).

If you are interested in seeing another ad that makes a statement similar to that of the “response” ad” see Figure 3 at this link:

Works Cited:

Off, Carol. Bitter chocolate: Investigating the dark side of the world’s most seductive sweet. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2006. 2-8.

Ryan, Orla. Chocolate nations: Living and dying for cocoa in West Africa. Zed books, 2011. 44-61.

Satre, Lowell Joseph. Chocolate on trial: Slavery, politics, and the ethics of business. Ohio University Press, 2005. 13-32.

Figures Cited:

Figure 1. (Accessed April 6, 2015)

Figure 2. (left) (Accessed April 6, 2015) (right) (Accessed April 6, 2015)

Figure 3. (Accessed April 9, 2015)

Chocolate Industrialization and Advertisement in England: From Beverage to Bar

In developed countries today, when people think of chocolate, they most likely think of a solid, chocolate bar.  However, for many years after its discovery, chocolate was consumed in liquid form and was limited to the wealthy and the elite.  So when and why did chocolate change states? And what happened that enabled the general public to have access to chocolate?  With a specific focus on consumption trends in England, it will be argued that when chocolate first reached England in the 1650s it was most commonly consumed as a beverage and by the upper class; however, inventions such as the hydraulic press and chocolate bar coupled with mass production and marketing eventually made solid chocolate more convenient, affordable, and available to the masses, making it the most popular way to consume chocolate in England by the early 20th century.

Drinking Chocolate in Early England

Chocolate was formally introduced to England in the 17th century, and it was primarily consumed as a beverage (Coe and Coe, 161).  In addition, until the late 18th century, chocolate was time-consuming to produce and complicated to turn into a beverage making chocolate expensive and unappealing to those who did not have the time or tools to make the beverage (i.e. the poor and the working-class) (Coe and Coe, 169).  Therefore, as a rare, complex, and exotic commodity, chocolate was primarily consumed by the elite who could have their servants prepare the beverage for them or the wealthy who could afford to purchase a chocolate drink at a chocolate house in London (Figure 1 below) (Coe and Coe, 166-167).  However, chocolate would not be an exclusive beverage forever.  In fact, by the late 18th century, Industrial Revolution innovations had profound social and economic impacts on chocolate consumption.

Chocolate House
Figure 1. A 17th c. chocolate house in London portraying that at first chocolate was mainly consumed by the upper class and in liquid form.

Inventions that Paved the Way to Mass Production 

Three inventions that transformed chocolate consumption were the steam mill, the hydraulic press, and the alkalization process.  The steam mill was invented by Dubuisson around 1776 and was used to grind cocoa beans, which had previously been done by hand (“Discovering Dickens”).  The steam mill reduced labor intensity and costs, and thus helped decrease the cost of chocolate itself.  Next, the hydraulic press was invented in 1828 by Coenraad Van Houten and was used to efficiently squeeze the cocoa butter from cocoa beans, leaving behind a cocoa “press cake” which could be ground into cocoa powder (Coe and Coe, 234).  Van Houten also invented the alkalization process in which cocoa powder is treated with alkaline salts.  This process eliminates some of the acidity from the cocoa, increases the powder’s miscibility, and gives cocoa powder a smoother consistency (Presilla, 28-29).  Van Houten’s hydraulic press and alkalization process cut chocolate prices even further, reduced processing time, and made chocolate more desirable (“Europeans”).  Overall, these three inventions paved the way towards the mass production and eventual mass consumption of chocolate.

The Solid Chocolate and Mass Production

The three aforementioned inventions enabled Joseph Fry (of Fry & Sons in Bristol, England) to create the first chocolate bar in 1847.  The bar was made by mixing alkalized cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter into a paste and then pressing the mixture into a mold (Coe and Coe, 241).  Two years later, Cadbury of Birmingham, England, was also manufacturing “chocolate for eating” (“The History of Chocolate”).  Since both companies used methods of mass production to manufacture solid chocolate, the price of chocolate declined, making it more affordable to the general public of England.

Advertising and the Domination of Solid Chocolate

Even though Fry’s and Cadbury were now selling solid chocolate, they were still selling cocoa mix to make drinking chocolate.  However, solid chocolate was more heavily advertised and marketed towards the masses than drinking chocolate, ultimately leading to solid chocolate’s domination in England by the early 20th century.

Cadbury Drinking Chocolate
Figure 2. Example of an early Cadbury Drinking Cocoa Advertisement
Fry's Pure Cocoa
Figure 3. Example of an early Fry’s Drinking Cocoa Advertisement

When Cadbury and Fry & Sons marketed drinking cocoa, their advertisements often included well-dressed men and women who seemed to resemble the upper class (Figures 2-3 above).  However, when they marketed solid chocolate, their advertisements often portrayed children or more middle-class looking men and women (Figures 4-5 below).  In Figure 4, one can see a boy going through the five stages of receiving and finally eating a Fry’s chocolate bar, revealing how Fry’s was marketing its bar to children as a quick and delightful snack.  In Figure 5, one can see a seemingly middle-class man dropping Cadbury chocolate and children swarming to eat it off the ground, revealing that Cadbury also marketed its solid chocolate to kids.

Fry's Chocolate Bar
Figure 4. Fry’s Five Boys Chocolate Bar
Figure 5. Example of an early Cadbury Chocolate Advertisement
Figure 5. Example of an early Cadbury Chocolate Advertisement

Not only was solid chocolate marketed towards children, but it was also marketed towards the working-class and mothers.  Since solid chocolate required no preparation, it was much more convenient than drinking chocolate.  Therefore, solid chocolate lent itself well to the British working-class who may have needed a quick energy boost on the job and wives who had little time to cook for their families (Mintz, 147).  Mothers were also interested in buying solid chocolate because they enjoyed it themselves, and solid chocolate was now a relatively inexpensive way to satisfy their children (Martin).

In sum, these different marketing strategies revealed that drinking chocolate was historically a luxury of the upper class while solid chocolate was something any person of any age or social class could enjoy.  With ads that encouraged the entire British population to try chocolate, solid chocolate popularity surged, and by the late 19th – early 20th century solid chocolate overtook drinking chocolate in popularity (Presilla, 29).


From the 1650s to around the mid-1800s, the British upper class primarily drank chocolate.  However, as new industrial innovations facilitated the creation and mass production of solid chocolate, this original consumption trend would eventually wane.  By the late 19th – early 20th century, solid chocolate proved to be more convenient than drinking chocolate and more affordable than in the past enabling more of the British population such as the working-class and children to enjoy the commodity.  Finally, with the usage of broad-based advertising, Fry & Sons and Cadbury were able to popularize solid chocolate to the masses, eventually establishing solid chocolate’s dominance over drinking chocolate.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. 3rd ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013. 161-169, 234, 241.

Discovering Dickens – A Community Reading Project. January 1, 2002. Accessed March 10, 2015.

“Europeans.” The Story of Chocolate. Accessed March 11, 2015.

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 8: Popular Sweet Tooths and Scandal.” Lecture, Class, Cambridge, February 23, 2015. Discussed around Slides 11-15.

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power. New York, N.Y.: Viking, 1985. 147.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press, 2001. 28-29.

“The History of Chocolate.” The Nibble. May 1, 2010. Accessed March 11, 2015.

Images Cited

Figure 1: (Accessed March 11, 2015)

Figure 2: (Accessed March 11, 2015)

Figure 3: (Accessed March 11, 2015)

Figure 4: (Accessed March 11, 2015)

Figure 5: (Accessed March 11, 2015)

Chocolate in French Art: How 18th c. French Paintings Reveal the Cultural and Social Significance of Chocolate in 17-18th c. France

Although scholars are uncertain about how and when chocolate reached France, chocolate’s immediate success in France is undeniable (Coe and Coe, 150).  Chocolate was a part of daily life for many French men and women during the 17-18th century, so much so that chocolate appeared in several French paintings of the time.  In analyzing two of these “chocolate containing” paintings, this post’s purpose is to explain how each painting can be used to uncover the cultural and social importance of chocolate in 17-18th century France.

Figure 1. “La tasse de chocolat” (1768) by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier
Figure 1. La tasse de chocolat (1768) by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier

The first painting to be discussed is La tasse de chocolat (1768) by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier (Figure 1 above).  The painting is of the family of the Duke of Penthièvre drinking chocolate and communicates the significance of chocolate in early France in several ways.  First, the Duke of Penthièvre was of the French court and known for his wealth, meaning he and his family were of the elite class in society (Poore, 2).  This distinction is important because when chocolate was first introduced to France, it was mainly a commodity of the elite or those who could afford it (Coe and Coe, 125).  Second, in this painting the family is enjoying chocolate together demonstrating the social aspect of chocolate.  At this time, chocolate was often consumed with company, at banquets, and at other social functions, allowing hosts to show off their sophistication and prestige (Grivetti and Shapiro).  Therefore, the presence of chocolate in this painting signifies the family’s wealth and status and highlights the social element of chocolate.

Figure 2. “The Proposal” (1736-93) by Louis Marin Bonnet
Figure 2. The Proposal (1736-93) by Louis Marin Bonnet

The second painting of interest is The Proposal (1736-93) by Louis Marin Bonnet (Figure 2 above).  In the painting, a man is proposing to a women in an elegant room full of columns, flowers, a statue, and a chocolatière (chocolate pot).  A chocolatière is an instrument used to froth up chocolate drinks and is believed to be a late 17th century French invention (Coe and Coe, 156-157).  Since nobility were the most common consumers of chocolate in 17-18th century France, chocolatières were mainly composed of silver or gold, and one can see that the chocolatière in the painting is silver revealing the elite status of the couple (Aaron and Bearden, 67) (Figure 3 below).  Moreover, it is hypothesized that the chocolatière appears in this painting because chocolate was associated with love and sex in France (Bush).  It was well known throughout Europe that chocolate was an aphrodisiac, and both men and women often gifted chocolate to their lovers for this reason (Doughty).  So perhaps in this painting the chocolatière represents the couple’s love, or it could be a proposal gift or dowry.  Regardless of why the chocolatière is featured in this painting, the fact that the French created their own chocolate frothing device supports the popularity of chocolate in 17-18th century France.

Figure 3. A close up example of a silver chocolatière
Figure 3. A close up example of a silver chocolatière

When looking at both paintings, it is important to note that the women take center stage.  This is because aristocratic women were large consumers of chocolate in 17-18th century France (Coe and Coe, 155).  Chocolate popularity amongst aristocratic women can be partially attributed to the marriage between Maria Teresa of Spain and King Louis XIV of France in 1660.  Maria Teresa was a chocolate drinker before she wed King Louis XIV, so when she came to France she encouraged and inspired aristocratic women to enjoy chocolate (Aaron and Bearden, 67).  Moreover, at the time of the marriage, “decent” women were not allowed to consume chocolate in public.  Therefore, the new queen and the aristocratic women of the court often drank chocolate together in private and in secret (Coe and Coe, 154).  However, ten years after the marriage, aristocratic women were allowed to consume chocolate more openly (Coe and Coe, 154).  Another reason chocolate may have been desired by French women was for its proposed medicinal properties.  For example, around 1631, Dr. Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma claimed that chocolate increased fertility and eased delivery in his A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality of Chocolate (Grivetti).  Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma even created his own famous recipe for a hot chocolate beverage which included chilies, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices, and it can be imagined that this was a popular drink among women (Coe and Coe, 133).  Furthermore, since chocolate was an aphrodisiac and often a gift from a lover, French women most likely appreciated chocolate since it increased their sex drives and reminded them of love.  Whatever the reason for why women desired chocolate so much, the fact that the paintings above (and several other paintings of the era) portray women with chocolate reveals that chocolate was a crucial part of their lifestyle and demonstrates that there was a gender component to chocolate consumption in early France.

Overall, although only two paintings were analyzed in this post, they reveal a great deal about the social and cultural role chocolate played in 17-18th century France.  Socially, the paintings demonstrate that chocolate was primarily the drink of nobility and the wealthy, was often consumed at social functions or shared with guests, and was often given as a gift to a lover because it was an aphrodisiac and associated with love.  In addition, chocolate was enjoyed by both men and women, but women were noticeably large consumers of chocolate for various reasons.  Culturally, the French enjoyed chocolate to the extent they created the chocolatière to froth their chocolate drinks and even depicted chocolate and the chocolatière in their artwork (ex. the paintings described).  Overall, chocolate was a popular commodity in 17-18th century France and was an integral part of cultural and social life as depicted in the artwork of the time.

If you are interested in seeing more examples of 18th century European paintings featuring chocolate check out:

If you are interested in learning more about chocolate in 17th century France, check out this lecture, “Enslaved to Chocolate: Culture, Commerce, and Gender in 17th Century France”, by Domna Stanton:

Works Cited:

Aaron, Shara, and Monica Bearden. Chocolate: A Healthy Passion. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 2008. Print.

Bush, Barbara. “Review No. 1099.” Rev. of Chocolate, Women and Empire: a Social and Cultural History. Reviews in History, June 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <>.

Coe, Sophie D., Michael D. Coe, and Ryan J. Huxtable. The true history of chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Doughty, Michele. “Chocolate: Aphrodisiac or Euphamism?” Serendip, 2002. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <>.

Grivetti, Louis E. “From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate.” Karger Gazette, No. 68 Chocolate. Karger Gazette. Web. 18 Feb. 2015. <>.

Grivetti, Louis E., and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.

Poore, Benjamin Perley. The Rise and Fall of Louis Philippe, Ex-king of the French; Giving a History of the French Revolution, from Its Commencement, in 1789. Boston: W.D. Ticknor, 1848. Print.

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