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the year 1666, a quantity of it was imported from Holland by Lord Arlington and Lord Ossory, at which time it was sold for sixty shillings a pound. The present consumption of it is immense, nineteen millions of pounds being annually imported since the Commutation Act took place.
SOPHIA. I think this agreeable beverage is reckoned unwholesome.
CECILIA. The faculty reckon it very much so to some constitutions, particularly low, nervous habits; at the same time, they allow that the same quantity of warm water might be nearly as prejudicial: therefore I am willing to drink it cool, provided I may be permitted to enjoy this enlivening repast, which always seems superior, in sociability and cheerfulness, to every other meal in the day.
MR. HARCOURT. At the same time that you mention its pernicious qualities, it is but fair to remark, that it is in some cases valued as a medicine, and is acknowledged to be a most powerful restorative to the spirits, after fatigue of body or mind.
MRS. HARCOURT. The general use of it
among the poor and laborious part of mankind, I consider baneful to them in many respects: it consumes a large part of their scanty earnings, that might be expended in more nutritious food; and though it gives a temporary animation to their wearied spirits, it is not capable of renewing their strength, exhausted by the fatigues of the day. The same money laid out in milk, would be more beneficial and nourishing to themselves and their infants. Not that I would wholly deprive them of this solace; but I believe it would redound to their advantage, if it were only used occasionally, by way of treat.
CECILIA. I have no addition to make to my account; therefore I hope Charles is ready to begin.
CHARLES. The cacao, or chocolate-nut tree, is a native of South America, and is said to have been originally conveyed to Hispaniola from some of the provinces of New Spain, where it was not only used as an article of nourishment, by the natives, but likewise served the purpose of money, being employed as a medium in barter: one hundred and fifty
of the nuts were considered as nearly equivalent to a ryal, by the Spaniards. It is a genus of the polyadelphia pentandria class. Thę flower has five petals, and five erect stamina: in the centre is placed the oval germen, which afterwards becomes an oblong pod, ending in a point, which is divided into five cells, filled with oval, compressed, fleshy seeds. The cacao-tree, both in size and shape, has some resemblance to a young black-heart cherrytree. The flower is of a saffron colour, extremely beautiful; and the pods, which when green are much like a cucumber, proceed immediately from all parts of the body and larger branches. Each pod may contain from twenty to thirty nuts or kernels, not unlike almonds. These nuts are first dried in the sun, and then packed for market; and after the parchment shell that encloses them is taken away, they require but little preparation to make them into good chocolate.
HENRY. You are not to be let off so easily, Charles: you must give us an account of the
CHARLES. The Spaniards were the first
that introduced the use of chocolate into Europe. The method of preparing it first practised by them, was very simple, and the same with that in use among the Indians. They only used cacao, maize, and raw sugar as expressed from the canes, with a little achiotl, or roco, to give it a colour: of these four drugs, ground between two stones, and mixed together in a certain proportion, they made a kind of bread, which served them equally for solid food and for drink, eating it when hungry, and steeping it in hot water when thirsty. The Spaniards have since added many ingredients to those which enter into the composition of their chocolate, and which are thought to add but little to its quality. In England the chocolate is simply ground, with but little other addition than sugar, and vanilla, which is the fruit of a plant cultivated in South America. These ingredients together are made up into such cakes as we see in the grocers' shops. When purchased for domestic use, it requires to be boiled in water, milk, or water-gruel: when sufficiently boiled, it is milled, or agitated with a wooden
machine for the purpose, and boiled again, in order to froth it, then mixed with sugar and cream. It forms a favourite breakfast at the tables of the opulent, and serves to gratify their taste for variety.
MR. HARCOURT. Your account has hitherto been very entertaining; but I hope you can furnish us with the manner in which this beautiful and useful tree is cultivated, as I have been told there are but few vegetables that require more care to rear and bring to maturity.
CHARLES. The first business of the planter is to choose a suitable spot for the purpose. A deep, black mould, is the soil best adapted to the growth of the chocolate-tree. It should be a level piece of land, sheltered round with a thick wood, so as to be well screened from the wind, especially the north. After having cleared it from all manner of stumps and weeds, the planter digs a number of holes, at eighteen or twenty feet distance. Having previously selected the largest and fairest of the pods of the cacao, when fully ripe, he takes out the grains, and puts them into a vessel of