Today we have guest blogger Lee McCoy from the United Kingdom. Lee has a fantastic blog called Chocolate Reviews also dedicated to the world of chocolate. He’s just writing from the other side of the vast pond. I hope you all enjoy his brilliant post and start following not only his blog, but Facebook as well. You will be happy you did! Chocolate lovers unite!
America or England? Which Country Is Most Important in the World Of Chocolate?
Let’s talk stereotypes. The British think Americans are big, big in terms of body mass, big cars, big buildings. big attitudes and make terrible chocolate. American’s probably think we’re quaint, easily pushed around and drink tea with one finger pointing to the sky. History proves us English are more adventurous than however.
Our first encounter with cocoa beans comes from our raiding of Spanish ships on the way back from the New World in 1579. We did think they were sheep droppings so our involvement with chocolate didn’t start too well. Thankfully we made up ground with Walter Churchman creating the first chocolate bar in 1728 and whose business was eventually taken over by Fry’s in 1761. About this time Bakers started producing chocolate in the States.
The English continued to revolutionise the chocolate market when Fry’s became the first chocolate company to manufacturer of the highly popular chocolate Easter Eggs. At the same time over in the States, chocolate was also a booming industry as the country had a staggering 69 chocolate manufacturers during the 18th Century [Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage]. James F. Gray of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has stated that “chocolate is more American than apple pie” and such a belief rocks the beliefs of many an Anglophile. He contends that chocolate “was a Creole” … invention”. Now, obviously there’s going to be some bias there, but not as much as you may think.
In Britain during the 17th and 18th Centuries chocolate was a preserve of the rich. Prices were higher than in America due to the more expensive transportation costs, the duties charged on cocoa bean imports and the belief of people such as Walter Churchan who stated that his patent on chocolate production should prevent everyone else making chocolate. Also we Brits passed a stupid law that stated that any goods brought to England had to be transported on-board English ships with English sailors. Whilst in America the opposite was true. There was a massive proliferation of chocolate producers due to the absence of excessive import duties, lower transportation costs of the raw ingredients (America was significantly closer to central America and the Caribbean) and a greater supply of chocolate producing machinery.
But where did all the raw ingredients to make this American chocolate come from? Port records from 1768 to 1773 show that in actual fact 79% of the cocoa imported into America actually came from non-British sources. At this time “British” would have meant the Caribbean Islands under British control, so from that fact alone, our involvement in the production of chocolate is much less than many would have thought given our involvement in the Caribbean slave trade.
Although there was little or no record of chocolate being imported to the UK from America, Fry still complained that ships from America bringing “very large quantities of Chocolate which is a quality equal to much that is made in England”, thus proving the impact, even then, of American chocolate production.
There’s an interesting juxtaposition between chocolate consumption between England and America too which proved that during the 18th and 19th centuries chocolate had a greater impact on the general populous in America than it did in England as chocolate from America was often used by the lower and middle classes as a morning “pick me up” whilst in England it was used by the upper classes as a sign of decadence – and this class divide still lasts today.
Whereas we Brits were instrumental in the development of many cocoa plantations across the Caribbean, the Spanish and Dutch had a similar involvement in other nations across the Americas and Africa. It would appear that those immigrants into America such as the protestants and Jews escaping persecution, landing in Boston, New York and Philadelphia brought with them an entrepreneurial spirit that had a huge impact in developing chocolate as we know it today.
But the true answer to the question “Which Country Is Most Important in the World Of Chocolate?” is neither America or England. It is every country that produces cocoa. From Côte d’Ivoire with their 37% of world cocoa production to countries such as Bolivia and Colombia which have farmers fighting against the call to produce narcotics and disease to the newer countries such as Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Malaysia which are struggling hard to get their cocoa in front of chocolate producers and consumers.
Even with the shifting production of chocolate into a much wider group of nations America still dominates production in terms of volume and value considering Kraft’s recent purchase of Cadbury, the giant Mars Inc., and the less well-known companies as Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill who do shift some chocolate.
History has shown us that the Brits were producing chocolate earlier than our American cousins, their free-trade ethics and entrepreneurial mind-set let them surpass us in terms of product development. Although the British were largely responsible for the development of cocoa plantations, it has been the Americans that have been hugely successful in the commercialisation of chocolate which can be seen by the global dominance of chocolate confectionery. Even though us Brits prefer to say we are ahead of America in terms of producing more palatable chocolate in the past with
the likes of Divine Chocolate and Green & Blacks, we have very few brands taking the world by storm in the field of fine chocolate. Even though we have a bean-to-bar producers such as Willie Harcourt-Cooze, Red Star Chocolate and Artisan du Chocolat, none of them seem to be getting the woops of joy that the American Amano and Askinosie brands are getting. In fact, for the purpose of this research I tried to rate all the chocolatiers I’ve reviewed. Out of the eleven in the “best” category, there were four French chocolatiers, three American, two Italian, one Swiss and only the one English. That sums it up really.
Now, when can I book a trip and review the rest?