Chocolate and Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has had a very big part to play in the history of chocolate through Sir Hans Sloane who was born in Killyleagh in Co. Down in 1640. He was educated as a small boy in the library of Killyleagh Castle. At the age of 19 he went to London to study medicine and natural sciences. He then studied in Paris and at the University of Orange where he became a Doctor of Medicine. Back in London he became a fellow of both the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. Sloane was then appointed as the personal physician to the new Governor of Jamaica, the 2nd Duke of Albermarle. While in Jamaica, Sloane studied the flora and fauna, natural wonders and earthquakes and the customs of the local inhabitants. He collected specimen plants, insects, fish, molluscs and many other native species.

In Jamaica, Hans tasted cocoa, a local drink favoured by the Jamaicans. He found it “nauseous” but by mixing it with milk it became more palatable. He brought this chocolate recipe back to England where it was first sold as a medicine.  Eventually it was taken up by Messrs Cadbury who manufactured chocolate using Sloane’s recipe.    

During his lifetime, Sir Hans Sloane became very famous for his medical and scientific interests and was appointed President of both the Royal Society and the Royal College of Physicians. The great Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus used Sloane’s text and drawings as the basis for descriptions of new species in his major work, The Species Plantarum. Sloane lived with his family in Bloomsbury, but his collection of natural artefacts and specimens grew so big he had to buy the house next door to fit everything in. Soon the second house was also full and Sloane bought a large manor house in Chelsea to house his collection which contained 117,000 items including 50,000 books and manuscripts. On his death at the age of 92 in 1753, the nation purchased his collection and it became the foundation for the British Museum. Today his bust is the first item on view at the entrance to the Museum. Sloane Square and Sloane Street are named after him and his statue is also in the nearby Physic Gardens.  You will also find a statue of Sir Hans Sloane in Killyleagh. 

All about Chocolate

Chocolate comes from the fruit of a cacao tree. The cocoa tree is called the Theobroma Cacoa which means food of the gods. The word cocoa is pronounced ka-KOW. The fruit is called a pod and it is shaped like a rugby ball and can vary in colour from yellow through red to pinkish-purple. The trees grow in countries that lie between 10 degrees north and 10 degrees south of the Equator. Nearly 70% of the world’s cacao is grown in Africa.

Each cocoa tree can produce approximately two thousand cocoa pods in a year. Each pod has about 40 to 50 seeds inside. These seeds or beans are very bitter. The pods are harvested twice a year. The cocoa farmers hit the trees with sticks to knock down the cocoa pods which are growing high up or chop down the lower pods with a knife.

The farmer then splits open the pods and the white cocoa beans are scraped out. The beans are piled in wooden bins and covered with banana leaves and left out in the sun for a week. The heat of the sun causes the beans to ferment and this changes the bitter flavour of the beans and helps the chocolate flavour to start developing.

Next the beans are spread out on a bamboo table to dry out in the sun. They are raked often so they dry evenly and don’t stick together. The chocolate flavour continues to develop. When the beans are ready the farmer sorts the beans and puts them into sacks to go to large processing plants to become chocolate.


Do Good Eat Chocolate