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Chocolate in the Eighteenth Century


Though we think of chocolate as something to eat today, in the eighteenth century chocolate was a very popular drink. Completely different than hot cocoa available today, the chocolate beverage was more like melted chocolate mixed with water or milk and sometimes spices. Chocolate was often consumed as a satisfying breakfast or quick meal. A truly international food, eighteenth-century chocolate required a variety of imported ingredients such as cocoa, sugar and spices. It was included in military rations for the Revolutionary War by both the Colonists and the British. It was enjoyed by all classes of people, from the gentry (wealthy), middling-sort, and the poor alike.

In this lesson, students will learn about the history of chocolate, the chocolate-making process that was used in the colonial era, and the trade of raw materials that brought chocolate to the colonies. Students will create foldables containing an eighteenth-century map, facts about chocolate, and their own illustrations to further their understanding of the history, science, and economics behind chocolate in the American colonies.


    Download Lesson Materials (PDF)

  • Feature article: "History of Chocolate: Chocolate in the American Colonies," by American Heritage Chocolate (teacher should read this ahead of time to prepare)
  • Chocolate Anticipation Guide
  • Historical Map of the Americas (cut handout in half so each student has one map)
  • Cocoa Tree Image
  • Cocoa Pod Image
  • Chocolate History Handout
  • Colored pencils, glue, and scissors


  1. Begin the lesson with the Chocolate Anticipation Guide. Distribute the guide, and ask students to circle the answers they think are true. Remind the students that they will not be graded on these questions. At the end of the lesson, students will answer the same questions.
  2. Give each student a piece of white 8.5 x 11 paper. Instruct students to fold the paper in half lengthwise. Then, fold each end into the center and crease both ends. Reopen. From both ends, cut lengthwise on the fold to the first crease line. See the Lesson Materials for a diagram.
  3. Ask students to close the flaps of the foldable. Have students label the flaps of their foldable with the following:
    1. Top left corner: Cocoa Tree
    2. Top right corner: Cocoa Bean
    3. Bottom left: Roast/Shell/Grind
    4. Bottom right: Draw a diagonal line. Label the sections “Other Ingredients” (e.g., spices, milk, sugar, water) and “Products” (e.g., drink, medicine, candy bar)
  4. Students should illustrate the stages of the chocolate process on the flaps as you share important information from the feature article, show the short chocolate making video, and display the cocoa tree and cocoa pod images.
  5. Distribute one copy of the Eighteenth-Century Map of the Americas to each student. Briefly discuss similarities and differences between this eighteenth-century map and a current map of the Americas.
  6. Instruct students to close the flaps and flip over the paper. Students should glue the map in the center section.
  7. Discuss the shipping routes used to transport cocoa and sugar to colonial ports. Explain how this demonstrates global interdependence. Students will draw a line from the point of origin to the ports on the East coast. Draw a colored line from the Amazon area to Boston, New York and Philadelphia (the major ports of the American colonies) to represent the shipping of cacao beans. From the West Indies, draw a line to the same ports in another color representing the shipping of sugar. Have students write the name of the ingredient on the corresponding colored line. Note that milk is produced locally in the 18th century. Although milk was not an ingredient in early chocolate, it was used to prepare chocolate for drinking. Without the invention of refrigeration, milk could not be shipped. Also note that any spices added to the chocolate would also need to be imported.
  8. Distribute the Chocolate History handout. Have students cut out each box, and glue them in order on the inside of each flap. Students should illustrate each fact in the center panel. (In more advanced classes, have students research and write their own facts on the inside of the booklet instead.)
  9. As a mini-assessment ask students to complete their "Chocolate Exit Questions" and hand them in. If possible, provide students with a bite-sized sample of unsweetened baking chocolate before they complete the exit questions. This should help them answer question #4. (Answers: 1. A; 2. B; 3. all; 4. A; 5. A and B; 6. all.)

Lesson Extensions

  1. Ask students to find recipes for hot chocolate on their own. Recommend they use search terms such as "Aztec hot chocolate recipe," "Mexican hot chocolate," "18th century chocolate recipe" and/or "eighteenth century hot chocolate." Either individually or in small groups, have students make two of the recipes and compare. They should take pictures documenting their experience and submit a short paragraph explaining their findings. When the class reconvenes, if time permits, ask each individual or group to discuss their experience with another individual or group.
  2. Trace the history of tea from its international origins to its importation into the colonies.

This lesson was written by Marianne Esposito, Key West, FL, and Kim O'Neil, Liverpoole, NY.