November 24, 2017

Monticello and the History of Chocolate


Thomas Jefferson's home Monticello

As I strolled around the grounds, I was transported.

I envisioned the quintessential moments of history that took place amidst this acreage and I could almost hear the chatting by the Colonial women who strolled the gardens around the pond.

Reflection of Monticello in the water

The deep Virginia sun scorched down as they meandered, but their fine hats dipped over their faces protecting them from the glare.

Preparations were well under way for the arrival of Madison and Monroe,

Lewis and Clark artifacts

or was it Lafayette and Lewis; all visitors to Thomas Jefferson’s grand home.

Gardens at Monticello

Iconic Monticello – Jefferson’s autobiographical masterpiece which took over 40 years for his vision to become his reality.

It’s amazing to think of all the United States history revealed on these grounds; so much so that everyday our pocketbooks hold a reminder of Monticello on the back of the nickel.
The Brick Walk way to Monticello

As I walked the same cobblestone path of which thousands had gone before, its impact was not lost on me. 

Thomas Jeffersons study at Monticello

At this very desk, Jefferson read works from John Locke and George Mason which influenced his drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

Study Room at Monticello
Can you envision the words penned here while he literally burned the midnight oil?

But that’s not all I learned as I spent last weekend visiting Monticello. I had the unique experience of diving into the history of chocolate.

You heard right.

History and Chocolate, two of my favorite things, blended into one weekend, all courtesy of a partnership with American Heritage Chocolate.

AMERICAN HERITAGE CHOCOLATE was created by Mars Chocolate North America to help educate us about the history of our nation through the engaging story of one of our most beloved foods—Chocolate!

Over the next few weekends, I have the privilege of learning more of its history, as well as visiting some more historic landmarks and sharing it with you. Trust me, it’s SO fascinating!!

The Dining Room at Monticello

Did you know chocolate has been a part of our culture in the Americas for over 3,500 years? Its rich history is intertwined in the stories of our founding fathers, and ultimately, the history of our country.

Grounds at Monticello

Chocolate even inspired our historic leader, Thomas Jefferson, to explore his love of food, inadvertently becoming one of the first foodies of America. We always hear the phrase, “As American as Apple Pie,” but historically, that’s not quite correct.

Cacao or Cocoa Beans

It’s chocolate that should take that limelight.

In 1519, Cortez discovered that the Aztecs used the cacao (or cocoa) bean as currency. (They were no dummies.) The earliest record we have of chocolate dates back to 1641 when a ship containing chocolate sank off the coast of Florida. I may be no oceanographer, but I’m pretty sure that’s where the Smiling Fish got their name. 😉

with heat and pressure cocoa beans become melted chocolate

For 3500 years, chocolate has been consumed as a drink, but if you are thinking of the typical hot cocoa in powdered form, think again. The true hot chocolate came from taking the cocoa been pictured above and just applying heat and pressure.

Do you see that picture? The Chocolate History Ambassador from Mars chocolate, who was demonstrating the process, literally put cracked cocoa beans on that stone and began rubbing. The friction began melting the cocoa butter immediately giving us that rich chocolate you see. For authentic hot chocolate,  they’d add water and serve. We are talking just a shot glass full though. It’s deliciously rich. I so wish this screen was scratch and sniff because the aroma was AMAZING!

American Heritage at the Harvest Festival

All this was taking place inside American Heritage’s Chocolate Tent during Monticello’s Harvest Festival and as you can imagine, even amidst a rainy day, the chocolate tent was the happening place to be.

I’m mesmerized in learning more about this aspect of our culture that I really knew nothing about. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I know a lot about today’s chocolate and my consumption of it, but not about the rich heritage that is tied to historical chocolate like that used during Colonial times.

The History of Chocolate American Heritage

It took American Heritage Chocolate over one year of research and testing before they drilled down to an authentic chocolate recipe of what they believed would have been used on a regular basis during the 18th century. It’s unique ingredients contains nine different spices and I can’t even begin to tell you the depth of flavors that it gives to baked goods.

American Heritage Chocolate

All proceeds go towards their 150 historic partners nationwide to help support their mission of education.

Isn’t that just wonderful?

Tomorrow my family heads to Mount Vernon to learn some more and I invite you to follow along as I share behind the scene peeks into Washington’s home place on my instagram account , twitter and facebook page.  I’ll be using the hashtag #chocolatehistory

American Heritage Chocolate

(Just a few more pictures of Monticello.)

Whenever I spend time diving into our nation’s history, I’m convinced that I was born in the wrong century. Living on our homestead, my desire is to live off the land more, grow our own crops, etc. etc.


In May, I typically plant a large garden because it seems so glamorous and earthy.

Vegetable Garden at monticello

By July, the heat’s pounding in full force, my garden is overrun by weeds and my laziness hits. I realize that my love of modern conveniences has definitely taken over my dream of living off the land.

Kitchen at Monticello

The same reality is true as I wander Monticello’s kitchen.

Colonial Dough Bowl

This beautiful dough bowl is more than just a Pottery Barn display.

Working Kitchen at Monticello
It represents toil and sacrifice. Labor and perseverance.

And while Thomas Jefferson didn’t spend much time in that kitchen, he was a firm believer in dedication and hard work. There is no such thing as “luck.”

thomas jefferson

For two weekends, I have the privilege of learning from a true Chocolate Historian. He’s been in research and development for 28 years with Mars Chocolate and I can’t wait to share some of his stories with you.

Won’t you join us?

My daughter and I spent hours learning about Monticello and researching the history of chocolate at American Chocolate’s site. Click on over and view their interactive timeline. It’s fascinating and definitely one of our more fun school days. 🙂

What are some of your favorite chocolate treats?

Have you had the opportunity to visit some of our nation’s wonderful historical landmarks?

The views from Monticello

This blog post is part of a sponsored SocialMoms and American Heritage blogging program. All thoughts, daydreams, opinions and ideas expressed here on history and chocolate are gladly my own.


  1. Never made it to Monticello, but I’ve visited Mt. Vernon a couple of times, which I found very interesting and immersive. I have to say, I was struck by two main thoughts: First, the size of the mansion at Mt. Vernon would not arouse comment in many modern middle class subdivisions. Second but not least important, that the gardens and fields, kitchens and homes were maintained through the labor of Africans kidnapped from their home and subjected to generations of enslavement. It’s such a paradox to me that the “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence didn’t include those Africans, who were merely regarded as property. We’ve come a long way since those days, thank goodness (with still a way to go).


    Jen Reply:

    Kristina –

    I have never been to Mount Vernon, so your comments will open my eyes to it all, I am sure. I didn’t know that about the kidnapped slaves. I’m sure they’ll share all that on the tour, but you are so right…such a paradox.


    Jean Reply:

    @Kristina, in reference to your first thought, have you ever been to Graceland in Memphis? I was struck by how small it is, compared to what today’s musical artist’s homes are like.


  2. I would love to visit Monticello some day! It looks like you had a great time. And thanks for sharing the chocolate history facts. I loved learning all about it and Monticello.


    Jen Reply:

    Yes, you would love it, Lynn. Someday…


  3. Wow! Your photos are stunning! What an amazing trip!


    Jen Reply:

    Thanks so much, Connie. It was wonderful!


  4. Visited Monticello before. What is the name of the deep pink/burgundy flower on the 2nd pic? I remember seeing those and thinking how pretty they would be as dried flowers. Never heard of a chocolate and history tour!


  5. I love Monticello! We spent a day there in the summer of 2013 and loved every minute of it. I was so thankful to take my daughters to a place I remembered my parents taking me when I was a teen. I set the goal when I was a teen to visit every President’s house….I still have a ways to go!


  6. If I have a dream to go anywhere in the US, its Monticello. I will be going there soon (next year or three) and spending a good long time exploring.

    If reincarnation is real.. then I have spent one of my past lives there.. There was an instant connection for me when I first learned of Monticello when I was in 3rd or 4th grade.. my soul cries out for it.. Not a place like it.. but IT.

    And chocolate.. Yum!! Who doesnt love real chocolate? I was born & raised on a very South Texas border, about 3 miles from Mexico and there was an old chocolate making chant we used to chant… it is probably thousands of years old since the area I was from was heavily inhabited by old Mexican Indians.. We always acted like we had a molcajete and metate (mortar & pestle) in hand.. and we’d make the grinding & stirring motion and chant.. ” Chocolate’, chocolate, bate bate chocolate'” Cho-ko-la-tay. Im sure the chant came from South America since the word for their grinder is a batan.. which is the base for the word “bate’ (ba tay) in the chant..

    Im looking forward to your posts!!


Share Your Thoughts