So many times people visiting Washington Crossing Historic Park ask fun questions. The questions are often about things that George Washington could have had or known, such as things we have or know today. Sometimes the questions are about a certain food we eat, a special type of tool we use, or even a song that we sing — visitors want to know if General Washington had these things too. One day, the question was asked by a student on a field trip, "Did George Washington ever eat a Hershey Bar?"
What a good question! Now, Hershey Bars have only been around for a little over a hundred years. So, General Washington would never have heard of Milton Hershey and his sweet treat. However, chocolate may have been something that General Washington enjoyed as hot chocolate or in ways other than as a candy bar.
Columbus was one of the first people to bring cocoa beans (the basis for chocolate from the cacao tree) to Europe — specifically Spain in 1502. It is not clear if Columbus knew what a great treat he had discovered as the only thing said about the cocoa beans was that they looked like almonds. Later explorers saw people of the Americas drinking chocolate...a hot drink made from the cocoa beans. But, they thought the drink was bitter and did not like it much. They did find that they liked mixing the bitter drink with sugar cane and other flavors to make a drink that was sweet to taste — maybe similar to the hot chocolate or cocoa we enjoy today.
Some folks thought that the cocoa beans made a type of medicine.
Imagine having a fever and being told to take chocolate to feel better!
Solid eating chocolate — sweet bars like our candy bars today — were not around in General Washington's day and neither was milk chocolate — they both came later, around the late 1800's — but General Washington may have had chocolate to drink.
Early drinking of hot chocolate was probably a rare and an expensive treat.
It was mixed with many types of flavors to make it more tasty, like the following:
Next time you make yourself a cup of hot chocolate...think about the fact that you could be enjoying a treat that goes all the way back to before the American Revolution.