In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, no treat connoted wealth, power, and exclusivity in London’s high-class circles quite like hot chocolate.
Chocolate was relatively new in England, and it became a lavish hot drink, mixed with spices, milk or water, and sugar. And as luxurious, expensive commodities captured the country’s attention, royalty took them to a new level of opulence. Charles II, an early adopter of the trend, employed Hampton Court Palace’s first chocolatier in 1686. Four years later, William III and Mary II added a chocolate kitchen to the palace, which George I and George II subsequently enjoyed during their reigns.
The chocolate kitchen was staffed by a chocolate maker and included a separate “chocolate room” for precious porcelain, china, and silver used to serve it. William and Mary drank chocolate at breakfast, in their bedroom, and during a ceremony that involved getting dressed in front of select guests. The king was a particularly big fan and often drank chocolate throughout the day.
In 1717, George I hired Thomas Tosier, who owned a business on “Chocolate Row” in Greenwich, London, with his wife, Grace. She managed the business, while Thomas worked at court. While another member of the staff likely handled the labor-intensive process of grinding the beans, Tosier flavored and spiced the chocolate, which he then pounded into discs.
When chocolate ceased to be the epitome of status, the royal chocolate kitchens were forgotten and sat as an undiscovered store room for centuries. In 2013, a curator found the space after reading an 18th-century inventory that mentioned its precise location. The kitchen, which reopened in February 2014, retains most of its original fixtures, including a brick stove and a fireplace. The Georgian shelves, cupboard, and fold-down table used by Tosier to prepare the drink are all still attached to the wall.
The chocolate kitchen and room are now open to the public. You’ll have to imagine the sound of staff working and the smell of roasting cocoa filling the corridors, but you can taste historic chocolate flights in the Fountain Court café.
Know Before You Go
After exiting the royal apartments into the inner courtyard, turn immediately left and go through the left hand door.
Access to the Hampton Court's chocolate kitchen is included in the palace entry price.