When chocolate finally reached England in the 1650s, the high import duties on cocoa beans meant it was a drink only for the wealthy. Chocolate cost the equivalent of 50-75 pence a pound (approximately 400g), when pound sterling was worth considerably more than it is today. Gradually chocolate became more freely available. In 1657, London's first Chocolate House was opened by a Frenchman, who produced the first advertisement for the chocolate drink to be seen in London:
"In Bishopgate St, in Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West Indian drink called Chocolate to be sold, where you may have it ready at any time and also unmade at reasonable rates."
Fashionable chocolate houses were soon opened where the people could meet friends and enjoy various rich chocolate drinks, many of which were rather bitter to taste, while discussing the serious political, social and business affairs of the day or gossiping.
Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, wrote of his visits to chocolate houses:
"Went to Mr Bland's and there drank my morning draft of chocollatte."
The most famous one was White's Chocolate House in the fashionable St James Street, opened in 1693 by Frances White, an Italian immigrant.
The chocolate drinks, served along with ale, beer, snacks and coffee, would have been made from blocks of solid cocoa, probably imported from Spain, and a pressed cake from which the drink could be made at home was also sold. Around 1700 the English improved the drink by adding milk.
By the end of the 18th century London's chocolate houses began to disappear, many of the more fashionable ones becoming smart gentlemen's clubs. White's Chocolate House is to this day an exclusive gentlemen's club in St James', London.