Political Tool of Italy's Medicis
By Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
29, 2006 - The Medicis, the family that dominated the Italian
Renaissance, used chocolate as a powerful political tool to impose the
Florentine taste in European courts, according to an exhibition that
traces the history of chocolate from its arrival to Europe in the 16th
exhibition, at the Civic Museum of Monsummano Terme, some 50 kilometers
(31 miles) north of Florence, brought to light a 17th century letter
which contained the secret jasmine chocolate recipe of Grand Duke Cosimo
III, hidden in a footnote.
Double chinned, bovine eyed, chocoholic Cosimo III (1642
- 1723), was determined to put to an
end to Spain's supremacy in making chocolate.
Indeed, the Spaniards managed to turn the Maya and Aztec's spiced cocoa
drink into a delicate, sweet drink aromatized with vanilla, musk, and
compete with Spain, the Grand Duke told his court scientists to develop
new recipes in his food laboratories.
was there that his personal doctor and court scientist Francesco Redi
created the jasmine chocolate.
recipe remained a state secret until the Medici dynasty ended with the
death from obesity of Cosimo's son Giangastone.
turned his love for chocolate into a political tool. As Redi wrote in
his letter, he counterposed to the Spanish perfection Florence's
exquisite gentleness," Ida Fontana, director of Florence's National
Library and one of the exhibition curators, said.
Offered only to very important guests, the jasmine chocolate soon became
the most sought-after drink at the European courts.
that time, chocolate was almost boiling and sipped very slowly from
small cups called "chicchere." Not one, but two napkins had to be used
in the drinking ritual.
Indeed, the jasmine chocolate required much attention. It took the Grand
Duke 12 days to make it.
wasn't an infusion, neither it was water flavored with jasmine. Making
jasmine chocolate wasn't a simple preparation of food, it was an
operation of botanical-gastronomical engineering," Danielo Vestri, a
chocolate maker who has reproduced the Medici recipe, told Discovery
Layers of fresh jasmine flowers and cocoa powder were put one over the
other. The process had to be repeated every 24 hours for 12 days.
this way, the jasmine petals provided the cocoa dough with a flavor
never tasted before.
is simply delicious. And it is easy to digest: the cocoa dough was
melted in water, not in milk. The Medici did not only influence the
arts, but also chocolate. People at my shop go crazy for jasmine
chocolate," Vestri said.
10 librae of roasted
cocoa, cleaned and coarsely minced (1 libra = 12 oz.)
fresh jasmine petals
8 librae white sugar
3 ounces vanilla flowers
6 ounces cinnamon
2 scruples (7.76 grams) ambergris
layers of cocoa and jasmine flowers in a box, one layer over the other.
Let it rest for 24 hours, then change the jasmine flowers with fresh
ones. Repeat 12 times. Add the other ingredients and combine them on a
warmed marble surface until the chocolate dough forms.
Thanks to Steve Muhlberger for bringing this to