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September 23, 2008

CW's Historic Foodways staff shares secrets of the 18th-century chocolate makers

On Sunday, Oct. 12, Historic Foodways journeyman Jim Gay will demonstrate how chocolate was made in the 18th century in front of Colonial Williamsburg’s Prentis Store on Duke of Gloucester Street from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2-4 p.m.

Gay re-creates the chocolate-making process of colonial kitchens by roasting cocoa beans, shelling them and crushing them in a large mixing bowl. Using a heated grinding stone and an iron rolling pin, the beans are ground into a liquid and mixed with sugar and spices.

During the demonstrations, guests can enjoy samples of American Heritage Chocolate, a line of 18th-century chocolate products sold in Colonial Williamsburg’s retail stores. The American Heritage line stays true to 18th-century chocolate recipes because it is flavored with spices, including nutmeg, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

In the 18th century capital of Virginia, chocolate was made primarily to be served as a hot beverage, the drink of choice to pair with breakfast. Chocolate, along with coffee and tea, was considered a “necessity” in the colonies and could be found everywhere in the 18th century.

In 2001, Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways staff premiered a program called “Secrets of the Chocolate Maker” in the Governor’s Palace kitchen. It was the first regularly scheduled historic chocolate making program in North America using original recipes and equipment. Members of the Foodways staff are now internationally recognized authorities on historic chocolate in North America. Over the years, this program has been presented in magazines, the Food Network, colleges, museums and even the National Academy of Sciences. The chocolate produced is as close to the original 18th-century product as can be produced in the modern age.

“The Secrets of the Chocolate Maker” was the inspiration for Colonial Williamsburg and Mars Incorporated to create “American Heritage Chocolate” products. The “American Heritage Chocolates” may be purchased at the Craft House, Tarpley’s Store, Greenhow Store, Raleigh Tavern Bakery and DuBois Grocer, and WILLIAMSBURG Revolutions in Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center. The colonial chocolate may be purchased as an authentic chocolate drink mix or chocolate sticks or bars to be melted into a hot beverage or enjoyed on the spot.

Mars Incorporated and Colonial Williamsburg have partnered with the other museums to create the Mars American Heritage line of chocolate products available at Colonial Williamsburg’s Craft House, Tarpley’s Store, Greenhow Store, Raleigh Tavern Bakery, DuBois Grocer and WILLIAMSBURG Revolutions in Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitor Center. American Heritage Chocolate has been designed and developed as closely as possible to 18th-century chocolates eaten and consumed as a drink for pleasure and used by the armies as rations. The American Heritage line includes an authentic chocolate drink mix, chocolate sticks and chocolate bars and is also sold at Historic Deerfield, Fort Ticonderoga, Mount Vernon, Monticello and Fortress Louisbourg. It meets 21st-century manufacturing standards. Deborah and Forrest Mars preside over the advisory board of the Colonial Chocolate Society, an informal organization made up of representatives from Mars Incorporated, University of California-Davis, Colonial Williamsburg and other living history museums—all interested in the research, interpretation and presentation of historical chocolate making.

Established in 1926, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational institution that preserves and operates the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia as a town-sized living history museum, telling the inspirational stories of our nation’s founding men and women. Within the restored and reconstructed buildings, historic interpreters, attired as colonial men and women from slaves to shopkeepers to soldiers, relate stories of colonial Virginia society and culture – stories of our journey to become Americans – while historic trades people research, demonstrate and preserve the 18th-century world of work and industry. As Colonial Williamsburg interprets life in the time of the American Revolution for its guests, it also invites them to interact with history. “Revolutionary City®,” a dramatic live street theater presentation, is a 2008 Rand McNally Best-of-the-Road™ Editor’s Pick. Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C., off Interstate 64. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s Web site at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121