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The temperance movement’s incidentally addictive chocolaty business

When we think about temperance we usually associate it with Prohibition in America, but apart from the many religions that avoid alcohol consumption as a part of their practices.

In this article I explore how British Quakers unexpectedly became the most militant promoters of one of the most addictive treats in the world: chocolate.

Temperance movement.jpg

Let’s begin explaining what temperance means. It was-and still is a movement, typically endorsed by religious groups that is openly against alcohol consumption in general, some however only oppose its abuse.

The extent of the movement goes beyond abstinence, it seeks a deeper moral reform of society.

Quakers in Britain.

Protestantism in England has never been quite an homogenous community. The inevitable pollicisation of the Church of England in the turbulent post-Tudor 17th century brought deep fragmentations, Arians believed there was something intrinsically wrong with Rome and the Catholic Church as an institution but even as they shared some Puritan views they didn’t consider themselves as actual Calvinists.

So they went ahead and created their own congregation called the Religious Society of Friends, with Christ as an example of emotional purity, humility, refusal to swear alliance to any cause that’s not that of glorifying God.

Many are the qualities that conform their ethos such as: honesty, hard work, opposition to slavery, social justice and active philanthropy amongst other values.

They also founded great British banking institutions such as Barclays and Lloyds, Clarks (shoemakers) and…. Cadburys!

And here’s where things get tasty.

John CadburyJohn Cadbury was an industrious and wealthy Victorian Quaker from Birmingham -once called: a town of opportunity-. If you think being a woman or a child in Victorian England wasn’t easy, think again, because religious intolerance forbid Quakers from attending university –although they were allowed to be bankers- (some anti-semitic history bells ring in my head)

But that didn’t’ stop John and apart from training as a chocolatier he formed a charity against animal cruelty.

As a hands on man John seem to have been a believer in being a proactive person when it came to build a better future for all –and also make some sweet money along the way – Englishmen have many virtues such as being hardworking and tenacious, but if there’s something they’ve always loved is their brews: ales, spirits, beers and any distilled drink you can think of. That is not a bad thing in itself but when you drink yourself to oblivion at any given opportunity then that becomes a problem.

Cadburys posterJohn was convinced that instead of just opposing to binge drinking (Quakers did drink alcohol in previous centuries) a better strategy was to offer tempting alternatives such as tea, coffee and cocoa.

Teaming up with his brother Benjamin they opened up a grocery-cafe in which he himself prepared and sold hot cocoa. The business proved to be so successful they opened up a factory in 1831 producing cocoa powder, chocolates and confectioner’s chocolate (for cooking and baking).

Cocoa is such a versatile product they soon developed a much wider range of products and became a nationwide favourite and staple treat of choice.

Cadbury went on to be the best example of a successful English business by adapting, growing and leading its field. However in 2009 the company was acquired by the American corporation Kraft Foods. If you ask any Briton they’ll tell you Cadbury will never taste the same, is not as rich and creamy as it used to… but they’ll still eat it.


So there you have it, an interesting encounter between religion and what became one of the most delicious guilty pleasures: chocolate in all its forms and presentations.


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