by The Chocolate Dictionary
Chocolatisation is the infusion of someone or something with the civilising influence of chocolate. It is the process by which individuals or groups of people become harmonious as a result of the introduction of, or close proximity to, chocolate – including cocoa powder, bars, cakes, patisseries, drinks, bonbons, sculptures, moulded shapes or packaging. Chocolatisation includes little acts of kindness between friends, romantic gestures between lovers, gestures of reward and recognition from grateful officials, and sociological improvements by large organisations.
The big chocolate manufacturers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – Cadbury, Fry’s, Rowntree and Terry’s in England; Menier in France; Hershey in America; Suchard, Tobler and Lindt und Sprüngli in Switzerland – were all pioneers of chocolatisation, providing employees with higher wages, better housing, improved healthcare and time off for further education.
Chocolatisation has also influenced projects of scientific interest. Scott of the Antarctic, who was provisioned by the benevolent Fry’s, acknowledged in his journal: “Crunching those elaborate chocolates brought one nearer to civilisation than anything we experienced”.
A hundred or so years later, these pioneers are still spreading the positive influence of their chocolate. The Cadbury Foundation supports community projects near their original Birmingham factory in Bournville; Menier run a charity to purchase works of art for hospitals and hospices; and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation provides housing and care to the needy. We should also include industry executives like Mike Reynolds, responsible for creating the Milky Bar Kid who, inspired by the exuberance of his own adverts, established Paradise Park in Cornwall, a beautiful tropical garden for parrots and other exotic birds.
The new breed of chocolate innovators who emerged in the late twentieth century have not been reticent about maintaining the tradition, forging links where their predecessors could not. In 2006, Hotel Chocolat’s passion for high quality products lead to the buying of a plantation in St Lucia. This enabled them not only to have an influence on the cocoa growing itself – by offering high quality seedlings and technical help – but also to improve farmers’ welfare, guaranteeing to buy crops at above market prices. Tuscan chocolatier Amedei who make the Chuao bar, voted the best in the world, also buy beans directly from the farmers, thus maintaining the commercial viability of their crops and ensuring a fairer deal all round.
Instances of chocolatisation from outside the industry are no less plentiful too. They include the time when the RATP, the authority responsible for the Paris Metro, employed staff in 1996 to hand out chocolates to passengers as a bid to dissuade them from smoking; and the time in 2003 when National Health Service auditors in the southwest of England started keeping a record of how many boxes of chocolates – “gestures of satisfaction” – were given to the nurses by grateful patients.
In recent years the judiciary has taken such a liking to chocolatisation it has been interpreting it as widely as possible. Back in 2001, Sainsbury’s were able to settle a lawsuit with designer Jeff Banks reputedly worth £1 million plus a box of truffles every week until the supermarket stopped making them. In the same year, an unemployed family man in Southampton was given a box of chocolates by his housing association, as an apology for being ordered to pay £48 million in rent arrears instead of the £454 he actually owed. In 2002, a group of anarchists accused of storming the Argentinian Embassy in London were set free at the end of their trial, because all they had done was distribute Ferrero Rochers to the staff. And in 2008, a young Ipswich woman was spared a jail sentence for assaulting a police officer, because she had expressed genuine remorse and had bought him a box of milk chocolates.
Chocolatisation is also been applied to smooth the path of negotiation. Nancy Pelosi, the former speaker of the US House of Representatives, was known to keep boxes of Ghirardelli in her office; and Chloé Doutre-Roussel, before becoming an international chocolate connoisseur, liked to introduce chocolates into meetings to see how quickly tensions could be eased.
If chocolatisation is the civilizing influence of chocolates, and that people become sweeter from the chocolates they receive, then this principle was sorely tested in 2011 when the architect designing a new boutique for La Maison du Chocolat in Heathrow airport, found he had committed the ultimate social blunder when, on returning to his office after meeting with the client, realised he had not brought back any pralinés, ganaches or orangettes for his colleagues.
In literature, chocolatisation is seen at work in Joanne Harris’s novel Chocolat, where relationships in a French village are healed with the help of pralinés, apricot truffles, rochers noirs, chocolate almonds, cocoa nibs, hazelnut clusters, Nipples of Venus and scrumptious cups of spicy hot chocolate. Then, in a case of life imitating art, during the filming of the book relations on set between actors, crew and director were kept smooth and harmonious by all the chocolatey aromas around them. It is not just kind, civilised people who give chocolates, but in giving chocolates people are made kinder and more civilised.