Rhode Island was once considered the chocolate capital of the American colonies. In her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, Rabbi Debbie Prinz explains that during the Colonial period in America, there were a handful of well-known Jewish merchants considered pioneers of the chocolate business, including a prominent purveyor in Newport. The Newport Historical Society’s librarian and genealogist, Bert Lippincott, confirms that during the Colonial era, African American Prince Updike was producing chocolate for Aaron Lopez of Newport in the mid-1700s. The Newport Historical Society has references and the original accounting books from the period. A trader in other commodities besides chocolate, Lopez became one of the most successful businessmen in the city and a key donor as Touro Synagogue, which was being built in the heart of downtown Newport. (Newport’s first Jewish residents arrived in 1638; fifteen families who came from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin.) Touro’s congregation remains active, practicing at America's oldest synagogue, a national historic site. Today, the Newport area is home to many artisans continuing the chocolate tradition including Laurent Vals whose confections are handcrafted in nearby Little Compton (also in Newport County) using a classic French technique, and more than half a dozen chocolate/sweet shops can be found here as well.
Sweet on Newport? How Chocolate Helped Shape the City by the Sea
February 25, 2016
by Andrea McHugh