Tag Archives: white’s chocolate house

The Influence of Public Scrutiny on Cadbury Business Ethics

Today, chocolate is ubiquitous: supermarkets and convenience stores keep shelves stocked with a variety of affordable treats to satisfy the sweet-tooths of shoppers, and almost every restaurant boasts at least one dessert appealing to chocoholics, from molten lava cakes to chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate has become a major component of holidays like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, assuring the exposure of people to this delectable indulgence from an early age. However, chocolate was not always the dietary staple it is today. The industrial revolution expanded chocolate consumption by increasing its affordability and accessibility. As their consumer base grew, chocolate companies faced extreme public scrutiny, forcing producers to forgo chocolate’s debaucherous past in favor of a more ethical, quality-driven future.

A typical convenience store’s chocolate display. (Garland)

 Lascivious Beginnings

The first Englishmen to come into contact with cacao were pirates looting Spanish ships returning from the New World. Authorized by Elizabeth I, these pirates were uninterested in the “strange, bitter seeds,” and one ship went so far as burn a shipload of cacao after mistaking the beans for sheep droppings (location 2333). Later, when chocolate made its formal introduction in the 1650s, the English adopted a far less cavalier opinion of the New World crop and readily integrated it into their bustling economy by way of coffee and chocolate-houses. Chocolate’s timely appearance in England allowed for immediate public integration: the English Civil War (1642-1651) reduced the power of the monarchy and transformed England into a country controlled by shopkeepers and enterprising private businessmen, allowing chocolate to escape the aristocratic confinement it had found in France (location 2413).

The gaming-room at White’s, aptly named “Hell”, served as the inspiration for the sixth plate of William Hogarth’s “A Rake’s Progress.” The men are busy gambling, oblivious to the fire growing in the back of the room. Notice the perukes (powdered wigs) that many of the men are wearing. These were expensive and associated with social rank in the 17th century. (Hogarth)

Chocolate was mainly consumed in public coffee and chocolate-houses, all-male establishments central to social life in London that charged a penny admission fee. Here, chocolate garnered a hefty price due to its high taxation by the English government as well as the time and skill required to make the delicious beverage (“London’s Chocolate House”). The high cost and later privatization of the chocolate-houses made chocolate a de facto drink of the wealthy elite.

One of the most famous chocolate-houses was White’s Chocolate House. Opened in 1693, White’s was originally public, increasing admission prices substantially by 1711 before becoming private in the middle of the 18th century. Known for lively political conversations, members included prime ministers, monarchs, dukes and earls. However, the wealthy members of White’s were known to take part in more scandalous activities than political debates: the high stakes gambling at White’s was notorious throughout London. The chocolate-house was known as a place where young noblemen were “fleeced and corrupted by fashionable gamblers and profligates.” In 1754, The Connoisseur, a London weekly newspaper, reported that at White’s, “there is nothing, however trivial, or ridiculous, which is not capable of producing a bet” (Coe, Location 3286).

Industrial Innovation and Increased Consumption

The conche, pictured above, is another innovation of the industrial revolution. Invented in 1879 by Rudolphe Lindt, the conche made chocolate less gritty which helped it transform from a drink to a solid. The conche in the picture above was used by Hershey in the 1900s. (Z22)

Industrial revolution chocolate innovation began with Coenraad Johannes Van Houten in 1828. His invention, the hydraulic press, allowed the defatting and alkalizing processes to occur more efficiently and made possible “large-scale manufacture of cheap chocolate for the masses, in both powdered and solid form” (Coe Location 3459). The press cheaply created a “cake” that could easily be ground into a fine powder called cocoa. It is with this cocoa that enabled the Fry firm to create the first chocolate bar in 1847. Debuted at a high price, solid chocolate quickly became within the reach of the public as companies like J.S. Fry & Sons, Cadbury, and Nestlé developed and perfected mass production and cost-cutting methods (Coe, Location 3476).

The industrial revolution not only increased the affordability of chocolate through innovation that allowed for cheap and efficient mass-production but also increased accessibility through its impact on retailing. In Medieval Europe, the buying and selling of food occurred in open marketplaces, where authorities actively prevented the use of middle-men. By the time Elizabeth I was in power, retail had begun to shift from open markets to closed shops, although urban authorities strongly resisted the move to retail shops in the food trade (Goody). However, with the industrial revolution came the growth of suburbs surrounding London. Industrialization made groceries essential and solidified the shift from open markets to retail shops.

This postcard shows a typical English market in 1905. The growth of retail stores decreased the size (fewer stalls) and frequency of open markets (once a week when this photo was taken) after industrialization. (Osborn)

Public Outcry for Ethical, High-Quality Products 

Cadbury advertisement shifts to focus on the unadulterated nature of its product with lines like “absolutely pure” and “no chemicals used” along with a source, The Analyst, to provide credibility. (Advertising Archives)

With popularity soaring, chocolate companies were tempted to increase their margins by selling adulterated chocolate. One of the more popular modes of adulteration significantly reduced the shelf-time of the end product by completely extracting expensive cacao butter and replacing it with olive oil, sweet almond oil, egg yolks, etc. Another popular method involved the inclusion of foreign materials like “wheat or barley flour, pulverized cacao shells, or even ground brick” (Coe, Location 3519). This inspired The Lancet, a British medical journal, to analyze food quality and a consequent study found that “39 of 70 [cocoa samples] had been colored with red ocher from ground bricks” and many had also contained added starch (Coe, Location 3528). Facing public outcry, George Cadbury admitted to adulterating Cadbury cocoa with starch and flour and the company changed its practices. In 1866, the company invested in Van Houten’s press and launched “Cadbury Cocoa Essence,” marketing it as the “UK’s first unadulterated cocoa” (Cadbury). This product increased sales, transforming the small business into a global company.

The final shift from the debaucherous past to the more ethical modern-day came in the early 20th century when Henry Nevinson issued a report detailing the gruesome slavery occurring in São Tomé and Príncipe, the primary cacao supplier for the major English chocolate firms (Satre). Cadbury became aware of this practice in 1904 after sending Joseph Burtt to STP on behalf of the company and almost immediately began searching for a new supplier, understanding that the company’s “good Quaker reputation” was largely responsible for their success. They waited until 1909 to announce a formal boycott, at which time public outcry had reached a high after an article was published in the British daily The Standard outlining Cadbury’s knowledge of the slavery . At the time of the boycott Cadbury had already found new cacao suppliers on the African Gold Coast.

Works Cited

Advertising Archives. “Cadbury’s 1980s UK Cocoa Drinking.” Fine Art America. 2013. Web.

Cadbury. “The Story: 1866 An Innovative Processing Technique is Introduced.” The Cadbury Company, UK. Web.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Kindle edition.

Garland, Leslie. “858.01.14”. The Image File. Web. 2015.

Goody, Jack. “Industrial Food: Towards the Development of a World Cuisine”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2013 [1982].

Hogarth, William. “File:William Hogarth – A Rake’s Progress – Plate 6 – Scene In A Gaming House.Jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. 1735. Web.

“London’s Chocolate Houses”. The Herb Museum. Web.

Martin, Carla D. “AAS E-119 Lecture 6: Slavery, abolition, and forced labor.” 2016. Lecture.

Osborn, Bob. “Yeovil’s Markets”. The A-to-Z of Yeovil’s History. 2015. Web.

Satre, Lowell. Chocolate on Trial: Slavery, Politics, and the Ethics of Business. Athens: Ohio University Press. 2005.

Z22. “File:Granite Roller and Granite Base of a Conche.jpg”. Wikimedia Commons. 2014.

Chocolate in England: Available to All, Enjoyed by Few

Chocolate was introduced in earnest in England shortly after the British conquest of cacao-producing Jamaica in 1655 (Coe & Coe, 165). Within the next century, drinking of chocolate became increasingly popular in British society, enjoying a rise akin to that of coffee and tea, though perhaps not quite as steep (Loveman). However, though chocolate was ostensibly a drink available to all Englishmen, the aristocratic overtones of chocolate houses based off of their political and leisurely nature meant that in practice chocolate was only a drink of the elites.

In their book, The True History of Chocolate, Sophie and Michael Coe are quick to note the subtle differences in chocolate throughout Europe after it was introduced. For England in particular, they note its availability to all, in contrast with France, writing: “In France, chocolate was strictly for the aristocracy, while in England it was available to all those who had the money to pay for it, and it was on offer to all who patronized coffee-shops. Chocolate was becoming democratized” (Coe & Coe, 166). The key word in this sentence, however, is “available”. Chocolate was technically “available” to all because it was sold commercially at establishments that theoretically anyone could enter. But did this happen in practice?

Another main feature of chocolate houses in England was their political nature. Coe and Coe note that Charles II attempted to shut down coffee houses in 1675 because he thought they were hotbeds of sedition; chocolate was sold at these coffee houses, and “coffee house” was an umbrella term that included chocolate houses (Coe & Coe, 168). Moreover, at the Cocoa Tree, a popular coffee house established shortly after Charles’ decree, modern excavation discovered an underground passage to another pub in London, presumably for means of escape should the house be raided by governmental forces (The Telegraph). The presence of this passage belies the high stakes of the politics being discussed at chocolate houses. Politics were surely discussed by the masses, but the masses did not need to fear the Crown, as the individuals doing the talking wouldn’t have had the means to back up their words. The fact that the original patrons of Cocoa Tree desired an escape hatch when it was built means that the house was intended for influential members of English society, people whom the government needed to worry about.

Chocolate houses were more famous in contemporary times for their social overtones than their political ones, though. Most of the original houses were built in St. James Square, which, according to The Telegraph, was “a self-contained aristocratic estate of great and good houses for nobles and gentry” (The Telegraph). Chocolate may have been technically commercially available to anyone, but the location of the chocolate houses in the nicest part of London indicate that its being marketed as an elite drink. In her article, The Introduction of Chocolate to England, Kate Loveman concurs with this, writing that, “in the 1690s, chocolate houses began to be depicted as part of the daily routine of the elite” (Loveman). It is a safe assumption that the daily haunts of the elite were to a certain degree exclusive.

This assumption was borne out in contemporary English accounts of chocolate as a drink of decadence and chocolate houses as monuments to that decadence. Loveman notes that, “in the 1690s, chocolate was increasingly portrayed as the drink of the idle rich” (Loveman). This picture of White’s Chocolate House, published by Cadbury in 1708, seems to depict an aristocratic clientele.

Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 9.52.29 PM

The ornate décor of White’s and the powdered wigs and flowing dresses of its patrons indicates that chocolate houses were places of socializing and leisure. In addition, though the lithograph does not depict it, White’s was famous for featuring a large looking glass, which fueled popular perceptions of the vanity of its customers (Loveman). This reputation was enhanced by the reputation of the drink itself as an aphrodisiac, making it easy for satirists and detractors to point to the sexual promiscuity it implied (Loveman). Moreover, rather than politics, Loveman notes that chocolate houses were notorious places of gossip first and foremost (Loveman). All of these phenomena contributed to the larger general trend of chocolate and chocolate houses being consigned exclusively to the elite class of England.

In addition, the current trajectory of chocolate houses indicates something about their roots. White’s in particular has become an all-male “gentleman’s club”, and was a hot topic in English newspapers when Prime Minister and former member David Cameron declared it a sexist and anachronistic institution, calling for it to start accepting women (Daily Mail). In fact, Benjamin Disraeli famously quipped that the two things that an Englishman truly had no control over were membership into the Knighthood and membership at White’s (Daily Mail). With its current status as a bastion of patriarchy, conservatism and exclusivity in England, it is hard to imagine that, in a far less progressive era, White’s, and other houses like it, was anything but what it is today.

Though chocolate may be branded by some as the drink of the masses in England because it was commercially available to all, the elitist reputation and overtones of the houses in which it was sold meant that, functionally, chocolate was an elitist drink from the beginning in England.



Works Cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.
Loveman, K. “The Introduction of Chocolate into England: Retailers, Researchers, and Consumers, 1640-1730.” Journal of Social History 47, no. 1 (2013): 27-46.
Mount, Harry. “Disowned by Cameron, the Raffish Men-only Club That His Father Once Ran.” The Daily Mail. Accessed February 19, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2369652/Disowned-David-Cameron-raffish-men-club-father-ran.html.
Green, Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.” The Telegraph, December 13, 2013. Accessed February 19, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/The-surprising-history-of-Londons-lost-chocolate-houses/.

Wikimedia: Chocolate House, London, 1708 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate-house-london-c1708.jpg

The Popularization of Cacao in Europe… and a Little Thing Called Caffeine

It is no secret that as a species, humans are vulnerable to addiction. Granted, character traits and societal acceptance will exacerbate these compulsions, as it has been proven time and time again throughout the course of history, but there are contributing genetic factors that play a role in substance dependence (though the degree of the genetic influence is highly disputed (United States Congress 40). The combination of both social and at times instinctive pressure during an era of extreme wealth through royalty and structured courts resulted in the slow, yet effective European commercialization of one of our most precious commodities today: chocolate.

Chocolate (or rather, cacao in its base form) originated in the ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica. The Olmec, Maya, and Aztec empires all depended on cacao in many aspects of their societal structure.  In Aztec culture, soldiers would consume large amounts of cocoa on their journey to battle for endurance and strength—little did they know these wondrous abilities were due to caffeine surging in their bodies (Coe & Coe 95). However, it was not until cacao was introduced to the Spanish courts that the popularization, consumption, and subsequent mechanization in mass production occurred.

When cacao made the transatlantic journey into Spain, the utilitarian aspect of the substance was lost amongst the opulent, as there was no real necessity for its practical uses. Those who drank this luxury did not spend their days battling opposing foes; rather, the elite relished its exotic properties. Though medicinal uses were explored during the waves of exposure in Europe, most enjoyed chocolate in a recreational setting (Albala). In this new environment, cacao was adapted to a life of leisure and affluence, flavored with sweeteners and spices that were more harmonious to the European palate (Coe & Coe 133).

This detail of a painted tile from the 18th century depicts a chocolotada (drinking party) in Valencia, Spain. This preparation varied greatly from the manual frothing of chocolate common in Aztec culture; the beginnings of the mechanization of chocolate production began with the methods above.

While there was a large population that consumed cacao, its acceptance across Europe was by no means an overnight success—the foreign qualities of this otherworldly substance incited both advocates and critics alike (Jamieson 272).

“I want to tell you, my dear child, that chocolate is no longer for me what it was, fashion has led me astray, as it always does. Everyone who spoke well of it now tells me bad things about it; it is cursed, and accused of causing one’s ills, it is the source of vapors and palpitations; it flatters you for a while, and then suddenly lights a continuous fever in you that leads to death…In the name of God, don’t keep it up, and don’t think that it is still the fashion of the fashionable. All the great and the less [great] say as much bad about it as they say good things about you…”

—Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné (1926-96)

                                                            (Coe & Coe 155)

As the marquise de Sévigné laments in one of her letters, the effects of caffeine to those unaware and unprepared yielded some unfortunate results; in a very religious Europe, this was considered highly suspect and controversial. Yet not all experiences concluded so unfavorably; for many, the consumption of chocolate elicited positive responses—many hailed it as an aphrodisiac a mood-enhancer (Coe & Coe 160). Ironically, just a few months following her initial rejection of chocolate, the marquise had a change of heart:

“I have reconciled myself to chocolate, I took it the day before yesterday to digest my dinner, to have a good meal, and I took it yesterday to nourish me so that I could fast until evening: it gave me all the effects I wanted. That’s what I like about it: it acts according to my intention.”

 —Marie de Rabutin-Chantal, marquise de Sévigné (1926-96)

                                                            (Coe & Coe 155)


Although alcohol was widely popular and its outcomes were well known, caffeine and its effect on the human body were new to Europeans entirely. The jolt of energy, the curb of appetite, and psychological stimulants were but a few of the properties of cacao that piqued the curiosity of the Old World. Caffeinated drinks like chocolate were initially marketed as medicinal beverages to Europeans; however, the drinking of chocolate later became an urbanized ritual rather than a healing staple (Jamieson 279).

One by one, the major forces of Europe adopted the consumption of cacao, until chocolate and caffeine became a cross-continental sensation. This obsession with chocolate migrated from the Spanish Royal Courts to the far reaches of England, prompting the building of establishments like London’s famed Chocolate Houses (Jamieson 272).

In the Club At White’s Coffee House, 1733. Don’t be fooled by the name of this painting by William Hogarth; White’s is considered London’s oldest and most exclusive gentleman’s club and was formally known as White’s Chocolate House. Read more at the Telegraph.co.uk.

Cacao monopolized the caffeine market for many years in a part of the world to which it was completely geologically foreign (that is, of course, until coffee and tea were introduced). If this strange and alien product somehow did not make it to Spain on that fateful voyage, it is very likely we would not have such easy access to chocolate and it most definitely would not have grown into the mammoth industry it is today.



Works Cited

Albala, Ken. “The Use and Abuse of Chocolate in 17th Century Medical Theory.” Food

and Foodways 15.1-2 (2007): 53-74. Web.


Biological Components of Substance Abuse and Addiction. Washington, DC: U.S.

Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1993. Print.


Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames

& Hudson, 2013. Print.


Detail of Painted Tile Panel Depicting a Chocolatada. 18th Cenutry. Valencia, Spain.


Green, Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.”The Telegraph. 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.


Hogarth, William. In the Club at White’s Coffee House. 1733. From the Series ‘The

Rake’s Progress.’


Jamieson, R. W. “The Essence of Commodification: Caffeine Dependencies in the

Early Modern World.” Journal of Social History 35.2 (2001): 269-94. Web.

The Importance of English Chocolate Houses

In the midst of the 16th century, Chocolate arrives in Spain marking the beginning of its introduction to the European countries.  Soon after, the custom of drinking chocolate increases in popularity and spreads across Europe, reaching England specifically in the 1650s.  Soon after, in London the first chocolate house is born in 1657.  A chocolate house can be best described as a club designed to accommodate the chocolate drinking of the wealthy and elite with an atmosphere vaguely similar to modern day coffee houses.  Due to the deluxe and delectable nature of chocolate during this era, chocolate houses were “central to London’s gregarious-all-male-gregarious-social life of the time.”  However, despite the Chocolate Houses’ reputation as being incredibly classist by nature and segregated, in terms of income level and gender, or their depiction as “the most fashionable hell in London” (Green 1), chocolate houses established a market for chocolate consumption and a demand for chocolate as a product that later translated into the highly accessible and highly desired product it is today.

When the custom of drinking chocolate hot started to become popular in England, the country currently had little tradition of drinking hot beverages as coffee had only arrived five years prior.  For this reason, “chocolate was an alien, suspect substance drink associated with popery and idleness.” (Green 1)  Additionally, a form of the chocolate drink was currently sold at the already much more established coffee houses, however; the drink was not popular among this crowd since the beverage cost more due to its rare and luxurious demeanor and the caffeine content was much lower than that of either coffee or tea.  Coffee shop customers wanted much more “bang” (caffeine) for their buck, and for this reason, hot chocolate did not gain popularity in the coffee houses and was a secondary, less popular option in addition to coffee or tea.  The establishment of chocolate houses is crucial as these locations created an environment in which chocolate was sought out and was the only product being sold.

Cadbury_and_chocolate_history_of_chocolate_a_new_ingredient.jpg (500×363)
Chocolate advertisement for a Cadbury’s product.

As mentioned above, the first English chocolate house opened in London in 1657 and chocolate houses in Florence and Venice started to gain notoriety in the early 1700s.   Of one of the first documented advertisements for the chocolate houses declared that: “In Bishopgate St., in Queen’s Head Alley, at a Frenchman’s house, is an excellent West Indian drink called Chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time and also unmade at reasonable rates” (Cadbury.com 1) (the chocolate houses also sold premade samples of the chocolate drink to be later made at home) thus creating an exciting new market full of mystery and wonder.  One of the most notable chocolate houses, White’s Chocolate House, opened its shop in the fashionable St. James street neighborhood in 1693 by Frances White, an Italian immigrant.  St. James Square was a self-contained (and self-segregated) aristocratic neighborhood full of the homes of nobles and gentry in close locational proximity to Charles II’s (a huge proponent of the chocolate houses who often brought a subset of his many mistress to fraternize with while enjoying his chocolate) favorite palace, thus making it the perfect region and allowing chocolate to be “consumed in one of the most exclusive addresses in Europe by the crème de la crème of British society, cementing chocolate’s association with decadence and luxury in the popular imagination.” (Green 1)  Two other important chocolate houses are that of Ozinda’s, which was also located in the St. James Street region, and the Cocoa Tree, which was located in the Pall Mall region and thus served as the more respectable, informal headquarters of the Tory party where policy and parliamentary strategy were conducted over chocolate. (Green 1)  In modern day, the club that formerly housed White’s Chocolate House remains to be an exclusive gentlemen’s club with current notable members such as Charles, Prince of Wales; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Conrad Black and Tom Stacey.  The luxurious and trendy neighborhoods that housed the chocolate houses as well as the notable and elite clientele further supported an environment that thus led to the current modern depiction of chocolate as being a luxurious and decadent product that couldn’t be more different from the powdery, watery froth that is known as hot chocolate in modern day. (sci-news.com, see recipe).

300px-White's_Club_St_James's_Street_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1375768.jpg (300×225)
Building that housed the chocolate house formerly known as White’s Chocolate House

The chocolate houses of London’s Georgian times provide an establishment in which the wealthy and elite could meet their peers to enjoy various rich chocolate drinks meanwhile discussing the pressing topics in politics or high-society gossip.  Although the exclusivity of the clubs and the high prices of enjoying chocolate at these establishments (patrons paid not only for the expensive beverage but often times, an admittance fee) was incredibly classist and did not contribute in making chocolate the economically accessible product it is now today.  The environment portrayed in the chocolate houses, the status of the patrons of these clubs, and the luxurious demeanor of the neighborhoods hosting these locations were crucial in creating a purpose and demand for chocolate, thus contributing to the establishment of chocolate as a luxurious and decadent product in current times.

Works Cited:

“Discovering Chocolate.” Discovering Chocolate. Cadbury.com.au, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.


“Europeans.” – The Story of Chocolate. Thestoryofchocolate.com, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.


Green, Matthew. “The Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses.” The Telegraph.

Telegraph Media Group, 13 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/10515620/The-surprising-history-of-Londons-lost-chocolate-houses.html&gt;.

Morton, Marcia, and Sidney Morton. “London’s Chocolate Houses.” Chocolate: An Illustrated

History. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 21-23. Herb Museum. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.herbmuseum.ca/content/londons-chocolate-houses&gt;.

“Scientist Finds Manuscript with First English Recipes for Iced Chocolate Desserts.” Breaking

Science News SciNewscom. Sci-News.com, 4 Sept. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2014. <http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-recipes-iced-chocolate-desserts-01354.html&gt;.