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Christmas Foods and Traditions: Grace Tosier, The Royal Chocolate Maker’s Wife

Grace Tosier

Grace Tosier

Yesterday we learned all about the appointment of Thomas Tosier in 1717, as the Royal Chocolate Maker to King George I. Thomas and his wife, Grace, owned a famous ‘Chocolate House’ on Chocolate Row, in London, and when King George wanted a chocolatier for himself, Thomas was his man. This presented a problem, because now Thomas was a very busy man making chocolate for the King, and lived in his own apartment in the palace. He also had to be available 24/7 for the king. But, he didn’t want to give up his ‘Chocolate House’, that was so popular with the rich and the famous.  The only thing to do was let Grace take over! Grace knew exactly what to do and was determined that her husband’s fame would benefit her also. From that time on she always refers to herself as Grace Tosier, wife of the King’s Chocolate Maker. She turns out to be an excellent business woman, presenting evenings in her ‘Chocolate House’, as a “Royal Experience” to coincide with what is going on in the King’s Court. She installs a dance floor and presents balls in accordance with the Court Calendar. She celebrates the king’s birthday and other occasions. Grace is offering a court experience with those people who cannot be at court! She becomes very popular! Even after Thomas died and Grace remarried she always referred to herself as Grace Tosier. In the newspaper she was described as always wearing a very large, brimmed hat, and having flowers in her bosom. In 1729, Bartholomew Dandridge, a fashionable portrait painter, painted her portrait as one in a series of the aristocrats, celebrities, and characters of London. I think Grace may have had the best of both world’s; she knew the ins and out of the court without having to give up her home, business, friends and freedom to serve.

In  February 2014, the Chocolate Kitchen and the Chocolate Room, special royal chocolate-making rooms, opened up again at Hampton Court Palace. Research identified the exact location of the kitchens, which had been used as a storeroom in the ‘Grace and Favor’ period. The royal family may have left Hampton Court in 1737, but the palace and it’s apartments soon found another purpose. After George III, who reigned from 1760-1820, decided not to live at Hampton Court Palace, there was debate as to the future of the palace’s thousands of rooms. From the 1760s onwards, the palace was divided up for ‘grace-and-favor’ residents, who were granted rent-free accommodation, because they had given great service to the Crown or country. They lived, often with their own small households of servants above, underneath and around the state apartments. The whole palace was divided up into a labyrinth of apartments of varying size and quality. The average size was twelve to fourteen rooms, many of them vast in scale. However, some apartments had no more than four rooms, while the largest had nearly forty. Despite the grand location, the apartments were by no means luxurious. Yet, competition for them was fierce and many applicants waited years in the hope of obtaining an apartment. Over the next two hundred years a wide variety of people became Hampton Court residents. In 1838, the young Queen Victoria, who reigned 1837-1901, ordered that Hampton Court Palace ‘should be thrown open to all her subjects without restriction.’

As of 2014, the new display in the kitchen explores how the chocolate was made for the king and features many of the pieces that made up the chocolate serving service of chocolate pots, glassware, and linens. The Chocolate Kitchen’s 18th century fixtures and fittings all survive – you can see a Georgian fireplace and smoke jack within the chimney, a pair of charcoal braziers, a folding table, cupboard and shelves. Thomas Tosier is impersonated in the Royal Chocolate Kitchen still chocolating away…….Grace Tosier’s picture hangs over the fireplace.

See you tomorrow for more Christmas Foods and Traditions!

Christmas Foods and Traditions: Chocolate

Tosier making the Royal Chocolate

Thomas Tosier Making the Royal Chocolate at the Hampton Court Place

The Spanish first brought the cocoa bean to Europe from Central America. Cocoa pods fell from the cocoa tree or were cut off. The cocoa pods were easy to harvest because they grew on the trunk of the tree or on large branches near the ground. The harvested pods were split open and the pulp and cocoa seeds were removed and then placed in heaps to ferment. The heaps were rotated for several days and after the fermented pulp trickled away, the cocoa seeds were collected. These seeds were dried and bagged and sent to all parts of the world by ship.

Cocoa Pods

Cocoa Pods

The Chocolate Kitchen and Chocolate Room were built at Hampton Court Palace for William and Mary around 1689, but it was mainly used by the Georgian kings. The Chocolate Kitchen was a spicery to provide the spices for cooking and to make confectionaries of sweet treats.  The Chocolate Room provided the beautiful serving equipment used to present the chocolate to the king. China, delftware, and chocolate pots with molinet whisks, would have been placed on delicate glass serving dishes to serve chocolate to the King. The molinet is a wooden, ridged whisk with a long handle that is unique to chocolate making. It is inserted into a chocolate pot and pushed through the top lid. A final whisk is given before the chocolate is served. Chocolate up until the 19th century was served mostly as a luke-warm drink for breakfast. The Chocolate Rooms were situated near the back stairs to the king’s apartments and this is where we find Thomas Tosier.

Thomas Tosier was the personal chocolate maker of George I (and George II) from 1717. This was a prestigious position among the royal staff, but it was not a new position. Even before the construction of the Chocolate Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace, there had been royal chocolate makers.

Chocolate was high-status, luxurious and only for the elite, and so it is no surprise that those who worked with chocolate were highly-respected individuals. Prior to working for the King, Tosier had already established ‘The Chocolate House’, on Chocolate Row (now West Grove) in Greenwich, London, which was very popular with fashionable London society and one of the first places in London to serve chocolate. This set them apart from the “coffee house,” which had a much more popular following, because more people could afford to drink coffee. Tosier, already was well known and working in his praised establishment so the promotion to “Chocolate Maker to the King” established him further. It also made his wife, Grace, a celebrity in her own right. (we’ll learn more about Grace Tosier tomorrow)

So what did Tosier’s employment as the King’s Chocolate Maker mean?

Well, for one thing, it didn’t mean being part of the kitchen staff. Instead the Royal Chocolate Maker was highly respected as part of the ceremonial or personal staff of the monarch. Tosier would not have done the hard work of roasting and grinding. He would have had servants for that. Tosier would have done the delicate work of flavoring the chocolate and serving it with a final flourish. He was in charge of handling expensive and exotic ingredients and he was one of the few who had privilege and permission to enter the king’s bedchamber. Tosier was responsible for making and taking a cup of chocolate to George I in his bed chamber every morning. One of the perks of his employment was his own bedroom……. a luxury and an honor for a servant at Court.

So how was the chocolate made from the beans you ask? 

First the beans were roasted in a large metal container in front of the fire and turned by the spit boy. The roasted beans are covered in a brittle ‘shell’ which were painstakingly removed by the kitchen boy, splitting the shells and revealing the internal ‘nib’.

These nibs must be ground and placed on a ‘Metate’ – a large stone. This stone is heated from below with charcoal and the nibs are crushed with a stone, or iron roller.

Metate

Metate

Both the warmth and the friction of the roller and stone turn the nibs to a liquid paste. The more this is rolled, the better tasting the chocolate. The poor kitchen boy would have spent many hours rolling the nibs!

The liquid paste is taken from the stone and set, sometimes on waxed papers in discs, or often in little tin moulds to make a ‘brick’, ‘cake’ or ‘bar’. These blocks of chocolate are known as ‘chocolate cakes’. Cake in this case means piece, as in a cake of soap. This is a lot of work to make a cake of chocolate!

The processed ‘chocolate cake’ is put into a pot or pan and heated with a liquid – water, milk or even wine. Then the chocolate maker adds sugar and spices such as vanilla or a chilli pepper before serving with a flourish to the king.

It was not just the chocolate makers who benefited from this relationship. For a monarch, like George I, it was a status symbol to be able to afford your own personal chocolate maker. Just as sugar had been a symbol of status in the court of Elizabeth I, so too was chocolate, now in the courts of the European monarchs. This was a sign of kingship and power, in a period which lavish opulence was becoming more and more part of royal showmanship. George I insisted on keeping a chocolate chef on his staff. Tosier’s employment was not only a statement to George’s new countrymen in Britain, but was also a declaration of his position as King to the wider, European aristocrats. George I wished to be seen as modern and powerful monarch, who could compete with the rest of Europe. Tosier and his chocolate work were key in making this statement.

See you tomorrow in the ‘Chocolate House’ with Grace Tosier!

 

  

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