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 Anglo-Portuguese Jewish merchant and philanthropist 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 to Touro Synagogue, which was being built in the heart of downtown Newport. Today, Touro’s congregation remains active, practicing at America's oldest synagogue, a National Historic Landmark. The Newport area remains 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 la Masion de Coco truffle-infused chocolates, which are made one by one in Porstmouth and shipped globally, plus the more than half a dozen chocolate/sweet shops found here as well.
Sweet on Newport? How Chocolate Helped Shape the City by the Sea
November 27, 2018
by Andrea McHugh