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January 25, 2011

Discover Chocolate Making from Bean to Bar

Residents of 18th-century Williamsburg had a taste for chocolate and beer. Colonial Williamsburg’s program, “The Secrets of the Chocolate Maker,” demonstrates how raw cocoa beans are processed into chocolate and its uses in 18th-century cooking. The program is presented by Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways journeymen in the historic Governor’s Palace Kitchen, using reproduction period kitchen tools. 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Tuesdays, Feb. 1, March 1, April 5, May 3 and June 7.

Chocolate, along with coffee and tea, could be found just about everywhere in the 18th century. Chocolate was made primarily to be served as a hot beverage, the drink of choice to pair with breakfast. The first recorded mention of chocolate in Williamsburg dates to the first decade of the 18th century, when College of William and Mary President James Blair noted serving hot chocolate to visiting Burgesses.

In 2002, Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways staff premiered a program called “Secrets of the Chocolate Maker” in the Governor’s Palace kitchen. It was the first regularly scheduled historic chocolate making program in North America using original recipes and equipment.

Since 2004, Colonial Williamsburg has been part of the Colonial Chocolate Society, an informal organization made up of representatives from Mars Incorporated, University of California-Davis, Colonial Williamsburg and other living history museums interested in the research, interpretation and presentation of historical chocolate making. In 2006, Mars Incorporated launched the first historically inspired line of real chocolate products call American Heritage that can be purchased in Colonial Williamsburg’s retail stores.

Brewing “Small Beer” a Big Job

“The Art and Mysteries of Brewing” highlights the importance of the tradition of 18th-century beer making. Guests can see the process of brewing beer as it was practiced in the colonial era at the Governor’s Palace Scullery from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on March 27, April 23, May 8 and May 28.

The everyday beer for many people in 18th-century Williamsburg was known as “small beer.” This small beer was made by boiling molasses, hops and wheat bran, straining out the mixture, and later adding yeast for the fermenting process. Many colonial brewers substituted molasses, corn stalks or pumpkins for the more expensive malted barley traditionally used to make beer.

A Colonial Williamsburg admission pass provides access to these programs.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation is the not-for-profit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the preservation, interpretation and presentation of the restored 18th-century Revolutionary capital of Virginia. This town-sized living history museum tells the inspirational stories of our journey to become Americans through programs in the Historic Area and through the award-winning Revolutionary City program.

Williamsburg is located in Virginia’s Tidewater region, 20 minutes from Newport News, within an hour’s drive of Richmond and Norfolk, and 150 miles south of Washington, D.C. For more information about Colonial Williamsburg, call 1-800-HISTORY or visit Colonial Williamsburg’s website at

Media Contact:
Penna Rogers
(757) 220-7121