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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 focus on these mouth-watering foods, the Bay State is known for something even more spectacular… chocolate! From the legendary inventions of chocolate chip cookies to white chocolate, let’s explore Massachusetts’ rich chocolate history.

The Mid-1600s: Boston’s Chocolate History

While chocolate dates back to ancient BC 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. This 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. 

Colonial chocolate’s history does not end here. You can broaden your chocolate knowledge at Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate located in Boston’s Old North Church campus which offers an interactive exhibit featuring chocolate demonstrations and taste-testing.

1764: Baker’s Chocolate in Dorchester, MA

When you reach for a box of Baker’s Chocolate to make homemade brownies, did you know that the company is named after its founders and not the chocolate used for baking? In 1764, Dr. James Baker and chocolatier 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. 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.” Hannon and Baker revolutionized the way chocolate was packaged and distributed in America, once again establishing Massachusetts as a hub for all things 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, Toll House Inn owner, Ruth Wakefield, 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 kept its creamy texture and 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, where Nestlé would print the Toll House Cookie recipe on its package, and Wakefield would receive 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! We can thank Wakefield for the creamy, chewy, and crispy dessert that we know and love, Toll House chocolate chip cookies. 

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 through ethically sourced, delicious chocolate slivers that melt in your mouth. 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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