Having loved my recent encounters with Henry Jermyn, Cosimo de Medici & the rest of the rogues from London’s 17th century Chocolate House Tour, I was delighted to be offered the opportunity for more confectionary time-travel, on this occasion to meet the legendary chocolatier Thomas Tosier, who resided at Hampton Court Palace three hundred years ago.
Mr Tosier was the royal chocolate-maker of King George I was at the Palace to witness the reopening of his ancient chocolate rooms, which were rediscovered last year amongst piles of shelves, pots & stanchions. I was to learn all about the places the chocolatier & his successors used to prepare their regal 18th century cocoa, in an era when hot chocolate continued to be the most decadent drink around.
From Fountain Court at the heart of the Palace, I began at a small, sparse room which was the Chocolate Kitchen. It was from here that Mr Tosier would prepare his Jamaican cacao beans on a small wooden table, turn & roast them on a spitjack before beating the cacao in a saucepan over a charcoal burner. It must have been a hot, smoky & harsh room to work in, so I can only imagine the chocolatier must have loved moving onto the slightly more comfortable surroundings of his Chocolate Room. And so it seemed, as I was warmly welcomed into this second room by a smartly dressed Mr Tosier himself. Amongst a table of spices & tools, fine silverware and shelves crammed with ornate drinking vessels, the chocolatier prepared the chocolate on a hot grinder.
He described how he would slowly crush the nibs, extracting the resulting chocolate into a pan followed by blending it with spices, wine or even port before popping up the stairs to serve the luxurious drink to his Royal Highness himself. He spoke warmly of his wife, whose portrait was on the wall – Grace was also an exuberant character who certainly made the most of the Tosier name, having opened a very popular chocolate house in Greenwich. Finally he then served us a cup of his finest hot chocolate, a thick dark drink teeming with all kinds of flavours from jasmine to aniseed. An interesting drink to suit a very interesting tour!