Jews Make Chocolate a Revolutionary Option: Happy July 4
Sephardi Jews contributed to the availability of drinking chocolate when that became a very popular substitute for politicized tea in North America around the time of the 1773 Boston Tea Party. The Gomez family members (NYC) and Aaron Lopez (Newport) were among the several North American Jews who engaged in the manufacture, retail, and consumption of cacao and chocolate in this period. Indeed, many of these pioneering Jewish chocolate ventures preceded the beginning of the Baker’s Chocolate Company, which has billed
itself as “America’s Oldest” and “evolved into the first branded ‘Baker’s Chocolate’ product in 1780.” Jewish trading of chocolate began in New York where the business record of the Jew Isaac Marquez shows that he imported twenty-five pounds of chocolate in 1701.
Two generations of the Gomez family enjoyed chocolate connections in New York City. In particular, Rebecca Gomez stands out not only for her retail advertising but also as the only known woman to manufacture chocolate in the colonies. Rebecca plied her wholesale and retail chocolate made at the “Chocolate Manufactory,” at Anne and Nassau streets in lower Manhattan, through newspaper advertisements. When her husband, Mordecai, died in 1750, he left several chocolate accoutrements in his estate inventory, including “16 chocolate cupps, whole and broken, 1 chocolate pott; 2 boxes Chocolate 50 lbs each and 6 Surnis (840 pounds) Coco [Surinam],” suggesting that his chocolate was for both personal and commercial purposes. The Gomez family endeavors in chocolate exemplified the general popularity and availability of chocolate during the period, as well as Sephardi interests in this market.
Aaron Lopez used chocolate at Passover and distributed it as tzedakah (charity) gifts. Lopez’s expansive business interests included the cacao bean trade and chocolate manufacturing. As historian Jacob Rader Marcus put it:
Aaron Lopez … saw food-processing as ancillary to his involvement in the coastal and West Indian traffic…. The chocolate he secured through outwork was destined for local and North American consumption.
In 1779 Lopez described the Revolutions’ hardships on the inhabitants of Leicester, Massachusetts, and Newport, noting that they lacked basic food but at least had chocolate:
The Jews in particular were suffering due to a scarcity of kosher food. They had not tasted any meat, but once in two months. Fish was not to be had, and they were forced to subsist on chocolate and coffee.
These eighteenth-century North American Jewish entrepreneurs dipped deeply into the chocolate concerns of their day and they relished their chocolate. They reflected the commercial interests and technological advances in chocolate, contributing to pioneering cacao and chocolate enterprises. On July 4th, drink a chocolate l’chaim
to our ancestors and their patriotic commitment to it.
Launching The Chocolate Babka Project
Admittedly, by heritage I am more a German kugelhopf than an Eastern European babka. I remember eating homemade kugelhopf and bundt cake at family celebrations in Los Angeles. When I mentioned babka to my German speaking father, he looked puzzled and asked, “What’s a babka?” Babka, much less chocolate babka, was just not in our pastryRead more ›
On the Chocolate Trail in Belize’s Jungle
Mark and I happily signed on for three distinct rainforest chocolate experiences within a 15 mile radius of our home base, the romantic Cotton Tree eco-lodge which is nestled among Mayan villages near the Caribbean in the Toledo District of Belize. Not only did Belize envelop us in an exotic rainforest experience, our tourism contributedRead more ›
Is that coffee or chocolate?
Having just eaten my daily portion of chocolate covered coffee beans, I am primed to consider the questions I hear about coffee when I teach on the chocolate trail. How do the two foods really differ, other than taste? I think back to when the layout for On the Chocolate Trail was being designed andRead more ›
A Chocolate Cake for October’s Tricks: Devil’s Food
Heading into October and its culmination in Halloween, I find myself hankering for Devil’s Food Cake, despite its initially derogatory name. Supposedly in 1690 Pilgrims traveled to Plymouth Rock via Amsterdam. They stayed in a house near the city’s biggest chocolate houses and called that chocolate “the Devil’s food.” Later, a chocolate cake, perhaps simplyRead more ›
Some Previous Posts
(in alphabetical order)
- A Chocolate Cake for October's Tricks: Devil's Food
- Announcing Second Edition: On the Chocolate Trail
- Book Optioned: Museum Exhibit
- Celebrating Ice Cream Month with Chocolate
- Choco-Travel Tips
- Chocolate Exhibit Hits the New York Times
- Chocolate Trail Broadens: "Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate" Travels
- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea and Me
- How About Some Mindful Chocolate Tasting?
- Jews on the Chocolate Trail
- Lunch & Learn: Central Synagogue
- Lunch and Learn: Tasting the Best Chocolate
- Mothers and Survival by Chocolate
- No End to Chocolate Exhibits Part III: Visits #3, 4 & 5
- Of Chocolate Exhibits There is No End: Part 2
- Super Food Chocolate for Super Bowl Sunday: Three Recipes
- Talking Chocolate in February
- Warm Up: 3 Historical Drinking Chocolate Recipes