Chocolate's Birth in Firenze

by Ippolita Douglas Scotti:

Francesco d'Antonio Carletti was a young Florentine merchant and traveler in the 17th century and is widely considered responsible for the diffusion of chocolate in Italy. Traveling to South America, Carletti found the cocoa, documented its processing, and then brought its seeds to Florence. Thanks to him, cocoa from the plant Theobroma cacao ("food of the gods") arrived in Tuscany.

In 1606, chocolate was produced in Italy—first in Florence, then in Venice and Turin.

A testimony of the ancient link between Florence and chocolate is found in an old book at the National Library of Florence that includes a passionate work on chocolate written by scientists.

Cosimo III de' Medici was known to offer a cup of the new delicious drink—hot chocolate—to foreign diplomats. He had commissioned the recipe from scientist Francesco Redi, an odorist and superintendent of the "Spezieria" (spicery), Grand Ducal Foundry, and Spicery of Boboli.

Redi realized an exclusive recipe: a chocolate infused with jasmine that grew in the Boboli Gardens, the Medici's private park.

In the Boboli Gardens, the Grand Duke's gardeners also made new genetic experiments to create many oddities, such as the famous and extravagant cedar-orange in 1640, which produced cedars, lemons, and oranges from the same plant through grafts.

But, the most appreciated experiment was the secret recipe of jasmine chocolate. The jasmine chocolate preparation described in a recipe that lists doses, ingredients, and procedures was jealously kept in the foundry safe.

Here is an excellent recipe for classic Florentine hot chocolate from a lovely website, The Florentine:

Hot chocolate, Tuscan-style