Sir Hans Sloane and the story of chocolate

As Easter approaches, chocolate seems to be all around us. But how much do we know about the man who brought it to Britain, Sir Hans Sloane?

Sir Hans Sloane is famed for his collections, which he bequeathed to the nation in his will and became the foundations of the British Museum, but he is also renowned for bringing chocolate to Britain.

Born in Killyleagh, Ireland, in 1660, Hans studied medicine in both London and France, before setting up his own medical practice in London in 1689 – his patients included King George I and II. A keen collector, Hans was very interested in natural history and his collection, which also included coins, medals, books, prints and manuscripts, was chiefly comprised of natural history specimens and dried plants.

It was on a trip to Jamaica as the personal physician to the new Governor, Duke of Abermarle, that Hans encountered cocoa. Locals drank the bean with water but Sloane found it too bitter and took to mixing it with milk and sugar – the birth of milk chocolate.

On his return to England, Sloane introduced the mixture to society. It was taken up by apothecaries and sold as medicine but in the 19th century the mixture inspired the Cadbury brothers. Their use of the cocoa and milk mixture brought us chocolate as we know it in Britain today.

Sloane was a celebrated man and Chelsea, where he lived from 1742 until his death in 1753, has many roads and squares named after him, including Sloane Square station, a tube stop along the circle and district lines.

For more information, visit: Sir Hans Sloane.