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The Rich Chocolate History of Massachusetts

Boston cream pie, New England clam chowder, Boston baked beans: Massachusetts is home to tons of delicious treats. While many tourists and residents focus on these famous mouth-watering dishes, the Bay State also has a rich history involving an even more spectacular food… chocolate! From the country's first coffee and chocolate houses to the legendary invention of the chocolate chip cookie, let’s explore Massachusetts’ rich chocolate history.

The Mid-1600s: Hot Chocolate and Paul Revere

While chocolate dates back to ancient BCE times, it made its way to Massachusetts in the mid 1600s. In 1670, Dorothy Jones and Jane Barnard received licenses to open coffee and chocolate houses in Boston, the first of their kind in America. Their chocolatey drink, called simply “drinking chocolate,” contained cocoa beans that were crushed, mixed with sugars and spices, and heated with boiling water. Drinking chocolate soon became a luxury, inspiring the creation of the chocolate pot, a specially shaped pot for mixing and serving the drink. One of Boston’s most famous residents, Paul Revere, is one of the silversmiths who crafted chocolate pots for the likes of John Adams. 

Want to learn more about chocolate in colonial history? You can broaden your knowledge at Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop located in Boston’s Old North Church campus. The shop offers exhibits, demonstrations and taste testing, and includes an exploration of colonial Bostonians' entanglement in and profit from enslaved people in the cocoa industry.

1764: Baker’s Chocolate in Dorchester, MA

When you reach for a box of Baker’s Chocolate to make brownies, did you know that the company is named after its founders and not because the chocolate is used for baking? In 1764, Dr. James Baker and chocolate maker John Hannon founded “Hannon’s Best Chocolate,” America’s first successful chocolate mill in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The two produced hardened chocolate intended for drinking or baking, which became widely popular. Hannon and Baker revolutionized the way chocolate was packaged and distributed in America. Unfortunately, in 1779, Hannon disappeared on a voyage to buy cocoa beans in the West Indies and was never seen again. Hannon’s wife sold the company to Baker, and he renamed the company “Baker’s Chocolate.”  

1938: The Invention of Chocolate Chip Cookies in Whitman, MA

Did you know that the creation of the beloved chocolate chip cookie happened by accident? While making a batch of Butter Drop Do cookies for her roadside travelers, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, ran out of Baker's chocolate. She substituted this by cutting up a bar of Nestlé’s semi-sweet chocolate, expecting the chocolate to melt into the cookie while baking. Instead, the chocolate bits held together, and creamy, chewy, crispy chocolate chip cookies were born. Known as “Toll House Crunch Cookies,” Wakefield’s creation became a local specialty until major Boston magazines covered her story. Eventually, Ruth Wakefield struck a deal with Nestlé, wherein Nestlé printed the Toll House Cookie recipe on its package, and Wakefield received a lifetime supply of Nestlé chocolate. While it was considered a sweet deal at the time, today Wakefield would have probably hired a few patent and trademark attorneys to negotiate for something more! 

On July 9, 1999, the state designated the chocolate chip cookie as the Commonwealth’s official cookie. 

1956: America’s Introduction to White Chocolate 

In 1956, a young chocolatier named Fredrick Herbert traveled to Europe in hopes of finding new ingredients to put in his chocolate. He had purchased a Tudor-style mansion in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, which he turned into a candy shop. While away, Herbert discovered “white coat” candies—otherwise known as white chocolate—and brought them back to America. Because of Herbert’s discovery, white chocolate became a staple sweet in New England and eventually the United States. You can still visit Herbert’s “candy mansion” in Shrewsbury and see the chocolate legacy that lives on in New England.

2020: Tangle Chocolate

As our chocolate-filled journey comes to an end, Tangle Chocolate’s story begins. Founded in 2020, Tangle Chocolate looks to revolutionize the chocolate experience with its ethically-sourced fine chocolate slivers that melt on your tongue and elevate everyday moments. This innovation is one for the history books!


Bibliography: 

“History.” Hebert Candies & Gifts, www.hebertcandies.com/pages/history.  

“Ruth Wakefield: Chocolate Chip Cookie Inventor.” Famous Women Inventors, 2008, www.women-inventors.com/Ruth-Wakefield.asp.   

Stevens, Peter F. “James Baker and John Hannon: Pioneer Chocolatemeisters.” Dorchester Reporter, Boston Neighborhood News, Inc, 16 Feb. 2012, www.dotnews.com/2012/james-baker-and-john-hannon-pioneer-chocolatemeisters.  

Ward, Gerald W. R. “The Silver Chocolate Pots of Colonial Boston.” Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 2017, www.colonialsociety.org/node/1359#en83.  

The Silver Chocolate Pots of Colonial Boston. www.colonialsociety.org/node/1359#en83.  

Stevens, Peter F. James Baker and John Hannon: Pioneer Chocolatemeisters. 16 Feb. 2012, 

www.dotnews.com/2012/james-baker-and-john-hannon-pioneer-chocolatemeisters. 





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