Whether slurped warm and foamy on a winter’s day, slathered onto ripe strawberries, or eaten greedily by the generous chunk, chocolate has been a dark and delicious decadence for centuries.
Regarded as food of the gods by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, who crushed cocoa bean and chillies with water for an invigorating ceremonial drink, chocolate didn’t reach Europe until 1502, when Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas and brought cocoa back with him to Spain. Once there, it was kept secret from the rest of Europe until 1579.
In 1615, chocolate arrived at the court of King Louis XIII in France, where as an irresistible delicacy it quickly caught on. A Parisian shopkeeper opened the first drinking chocolate shop in London in 1657, where, served hot or cold, and sometimes mixed with spices, wines or spirits, the exotic drink was a hit. Chocolate houses quickly sprang up across major cities, competing with coffee houses as meeting places for the chattering classes of the 17th and 18th centuries. Naturally, the upper classes also took to drinking chocolate at home too – where they ground up pre-mixed tablets of cocoa, sugar and spices.
A far cry from the ceremonial and bitter drink discovered by the Mayans, in 1830 Swiss chocolatier Charles-Amedee Kohler mixed chocolate with nuts for the fist time, and in 1874 JS Fry and Sons of Bristol created the world’s first eating chocolate. Cadbury‘s produced the first-ever solid bar of chocolate in 1847, the first chocolate Easter egg in 1873 and the first box of chocolates in 1868. But other companies weren’t far behind, with Henri Nestlé creating milk chocolate in 1875 and Lindt (whose new limited edition winter hazelnut Lindor we highly recommend) introducing conching to make fondant chocolate in 1876.
As it’s Chocolate Week (9th-15th October), we’ve whisked up our picks of the tastiest collectables around. Now, is it acceptable to tuck into that ‘Milk Tray’? We think so.
Boin-Tarburet Paris gilded silver chocolate set
£5,835.84, Galleria d’Epoca via 1stdibs
19th-century Belgian chocolate scale
£369.36, Van Steenbergen di Resta via 1stdibs
Antique English copper seafood chocolate moulds
£812.59, Eve Stone Antiques
German snowmen hinged chocolate mould, 1930s
£110, The Unique Magpie via Etsy
Chocolate ‘botanicak‘ school chart, c1900
£137.93, VintageSchoolCharts via etsy
First edition Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, c1964
£7,500, Peter Harrington
02095 910220; peterharrington.co.uk
Antique Eppelsheimer bunny chocolate mould
£44.49, Ruby Lane
Large early 19th-century copper chocolate pot
£240, WR Harvey Antiques
01993 706501; wrharvey.com
Pair of French chocolate boxes, c1860s
Price on request, Eric Appel LLC Antiques
Antique Swiss copper and iron chocolate vat
£3,607.32, Architectural Artifacts inc via 1stdibs