Chocolate was first brought to France by Spanish Conquistadors, and it was quickly reserved for the nobility and upper classes. From Louis XIII to Marie-Antoinette, the kings and queens of France greatly appreciated this hot drink which took the French Court by storm. Known for its fortifying, aphrodisiac and energising virtues, hot chocolate consumption increased over the course of the centuries until it became popularised during the Industrial Revolution.
Chocolate was introduced in France in 1615 for the marriage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in Bayonne. During the reign of Louis XIV, who popularised consumption in the Court, it became, in all its different forms, a habitual feature of Versailles cuisine. However, it was Louis XV a century later who was thought to have been most fond of the drink. The king sometimes even made his hot chocolate himself in the kitchens of his Private Apartments.
Louis XV’s mistresses, including Mme Du Barry, were equally fond of this exotic beverage which was particularly appreciated for its aphrodisiac virtues (or vices). During the same period, the first chocolate-making machines were invented and several specialist workshops were set up in Paris.
When Marie-Antoinette married Louis XVI in 1770, she brought her personal chocolate-maker with her to the Court, and he was given the official title of “Chocolate Maker to the Queen”. The craftsman created new recipes combining chocolate with Orange blossom or sweet almonds. However, cocoa beans only became truly popularised during the 19th century with the development of famous factories such as Cadbury’s in England and Menier in France.
Louis XV’s recipe has survived the centuries:
“Place an equal number of bars of chocolate and cups of water in a cafetiere and boil on a low heat for a short while; when you are ready to serve, add one egg yolk for four cups and stir over a low heat without allowing to boil. It is better if prepared a day in advance. Those who drink it every day should leave a small amount as flavouring for those who prepare it the next day. Instead of an egg yolk one can add a beaten egg white after having removed the top layer of froth. Mix in a small amount of chocolate from the cafetiere then add to the cafetiere and finish as with the egg yolk.”
Source: Dinners of the Court or the Art of working with all sorts of foods for serving the best tables following the four seasons,
by Menon, 1755 (BnF, V.26995, volume IV, p.331)