J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Choc-Talk at the Old South Meeting House, 7 Jan.

Boston chocolate lovers will be torn this Thursday at midday. Not only is Anthony Sammarco speaking at the Athenaeum about the history of the Baker Chocolate Company, but the Old South Meeting House is hosting a lunchtime lecture on “Stimulating Beverages: A Brief History of Tea, Coffee and Chocolate”:

Before 1650, a New England breakfast often included a mug of ale, beer or hard wine, but with the introduction of tea, coffee, and chocolate the tastes of the Western world were forever changed. Originally prescribed as cures for ailments ranging from headaches to depression, tea, coffee, and chocolate were soon counted among the necessities of daily live. Hear Amanda Lange, curator at Historic Deerfield, explain how these three beverages emerged as the popular drinks we know today.
That will start at 12:15 P.M., and people are invited to bring their lunches in case they develop an appetite. The admission cost for each event in this series is $5, $4 for students, and nothing for Old South members.

This talk is the first of a month of events on a largely libational theme. On Thursday, 14 January, there will be music from Poor Richard’s Penny, and on Thursday, 28 January, two more musicians perform a program titled “Rum and Revolution!”

In between, at 12:15 P.M. on Thursday, 21 January, comes a more genteel refreshment titled “‘One Bowl More and Then’: Punch Drinking in the 18th Century”:
Punch was introduced to England in the 17th Century, and its exotic ingredients immediately made it a staple in English and American parlors. The mixture of spirits, sugar, fruit and spice caught the eyes and inspired the imaginations of painters, printmakers, and cartoonists. Learn from Donald Friary, president of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, as he explains how this beverage and its accoutrements brought conviviality to English and American taverns.
Here are Revolutionarily notable punch bowls from Massachusetts and New York.


pilgrimchick said...

Those are very interesting topics--I know coffee and tea from a more England-centered perspective, but not in the American context. If you go to any of these, let us poor northern New Englanders know what you think.

Anonymous said...

This brings back something I found curious when attending a class on Colonial Williamsburg at William & Mary. In reading William Berkeley's journals, I noticed a gradual switch from mentioning having tea to having coffee (I think is was about midway through his journals). Do you know if there is a clearly defined time when coffee became more of a trend?

J. L. Bell said...

There was a concerted political campaign to cut down Americans’ drinking of tea after the Townshend duties in 1767, and especially after the Tea Act of 1773. But the recommended substitutes tended to be local herb teas; after all, if Americans all drank coffee at the same rate as they had drunk tea, then the London government could put a duty on that instead. And the consumption of tea appears to have bounced back after that boycott.

The lasting popularity of coffee over tea in America and the end of chocolate as a similar drink seem to be long-term trends, probably to do with trade routes and fashions. The switchover may well have come at different times in different regions or households. I’d be interested in hearing from folks who have more data or insight into the question.