Colonial-era chocolate still tastes good

Editorial Staff Opinion

Last month the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and Mars, Incorporated hosted a symposium dedicated to the history of chocolate and it caught our attention. We’re almost all familiar with products like M&M’s, but we were surprised to learn that Mars has been researching and making “historic” chocolate since 2006 through its historic division. The resulting line of American Heritage Chocolate products (chocolate sticks, chocolate blocks, and grated chocolate) are being sold exclusively at select museums and historic sites in the United States, and an encyclopedic new book has just been published Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (Wiley, 2009).

American Heritage Chocolate is based on colonial-era recipes by Hannah Glass, John Nott, and other documented cooks of the period, and aims to replicate the taste of the chocolate that our ancestors consumed—primarily as a beverage. Wanting to try it for ourselves, The Magazine ANTIQUES asked Mars to send some samples, which we shared with a few of our epicurean neighbors to see what they thought:

Jacques Torres/Jacques Torres Chocolate
It’s pretty good, actually. I was not expecting the particle size to be so refined—when you crunch cacao beans with modern equipment we go to 20 microns so you cannot detect the texture—here you feel a little bit of texture but it is pretty low, so it is well done. It’s a little bit sweet. Historically chocolate was made with very little sugar, and here there seems to be more, which might mask some of the flavor of the beans. Personally, I would use less sugar.

Rachel Zoe Insler/Bespoke Chocolates
My staff and I tasted the chocolate. We thought the packaging was cute and agreed that the chocolate had a pleasant aroma. We found that the spice notes overwhelmed the chocolate flavor, however…only a hint of the cocoa nibs pervaded. We also found the texture a bit waxy.

Chika Tillman/ChikaLicious Dessert Bar
I think this chocolate has very distinctive flavor—Cinnamon-y, flower-y.  It is not too sweet, and would be perfectly consumed after dinner as petits fours.  I am not certain how much flavor will remain if heated, but it might be interesting to use in a rich mousse, hot chocolate, or chocolate chip cookie.

Peter Hoffman/Savoy Restaurant
It is nice chocolate, though not earth-shattering in any way. It has a level of fineness—it has been extruded and dusted with cocoa. The packaging says a lot and reflects the market for this type of product.  It would probably work well served as hot chocolate.

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