I’ve lived in Boston for more than 10 years, and I hate to admit that I’ve taken its incredible history for granted. I recently paid a visit to the Old North Church Campus in the North End, and discovered a treasure trove of historical sites and information. In just one block, you can smell and taste a piece of chocolate history, get a newfound appreciation for printing, and walk in the footsteps of those who changed the course of American history.
My visit began at the Captain Jackson’s Historic Chocolate Shop in the historical Clough building. This new shop is the place to learn all about the history of chocolate (did you know it was originally a drink?) and how Boston played a role in its manufacturing. Plus, you will get to sample the chocolate drink enjoyed by John Adams, made with American Heritage Historic Chocolate, which is an artisan chocolate created from a 1750 recipe using only ingredients found in the 18th century. It’s a rich, fairly dark chocolate with a lovely spice that is perfect for drinking or use in baking. Several wonderful food gifts could be made with it, such as chocolate bark or rum balls, and the historian in your life would be tickled to receive it.
The chocolate was created by the Mars Company in an effort to honor its cornerstone ingredient by learning about it in all its various stages and places throughout time. Mars partners with living history sites, such as this one, museums, and specialty gift shops to educate the public with educational presentations and chocolate tastings.
At Captain Jackson’s, friendly ladies decked out in colonial garb take the time to demonstrate how chocolate was originally made; the spices and flavorings that were used, like cinnamon, chile, salt, fennel, orange rinds, sugar, and annatto; and how it was consumed. Within no more than 15 minutes, I learned more about chocolate than I could have possibly imagined and it doesn’t cost a thing to watch. The shop is also located right next door to the Printing Offices of Edes & Gil, which also features free demonstrations of the printmaking process by a gentleman in costumed attire. Ask him about the etymology of uppercase and lowercase letters. You won’t be disappointed.
Both shops can be found on the Old North Campus, which is home to the oldest surviving church in the city. It was here that the famous two lanterns (“one if by land, two if by sea”) were lit on April 18, 1775, to announce that the British were coming. After nearly 250 years, the church still stands as a monument to that fateful night, and is well worth a visit.
After only a few hours, I had a newfound appreciation for the city I live in and what it has endured to be the place I want to call home. This is only one block among many that have a story to tell, but it’s one that I highly recommend to those who love chocolate (so, all of you, basically).
Thanks so much to American Heritage Chocolate for sponsoring and providing the opportunity to get a taste of #chocolatehistory. All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Photos taken by Christopher Knapp.
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