California’s Chocolate Heritage

— Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique

There is substantial evidence that chocolate was a major food during most of California history—it was a pleasure to drink and a pleasure to eat. California can claim a long history of savoring chocolate. Recently discovered documents show that chocolate was part of the supplies during a 1774-76 Spanish expedition to San Diego, San Gabriel, Monterey and San Francisco. Chocolate served as a stimulant to kept soldiers alert during their sentry rounds and as a way to ease hunger during long overland treks and as a popular social beverage served to family members and guests alike.

Accounts of the early Spanish and Mission era extol the merits of chocolate, as noted in the diaries of Mexican and Anglo pioneers making the trek to California who found chocolate available at stopovers in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Evidence found at Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento (where gold was first discovered in California) showed chocolate was made there and served to members of the Fremont expedition in 1845. Ledgers in the fort archives record the sale and prices of chocolate in Sacramento both before and after the discovery of gold.

Chocolate is found in the accounts from the Gold Rush. Miners took “chocolate breaks” to brew their favorite beverage, and hard-working women served chocolate to their children. Getting lucky with chocolate? In San Francisco, chocolate was served as a refreshing beverage in various gambling saloons where miners were at a “loss” for words or even something more substantial.

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