Chocolate Pots

Chocolate Pots

Chocolate was first imported into Europe by the Spanish in the early sixteenth century from their possessions in central and south America. The Spaniards were able to keep the beverage a monopoly inside their empire for nearly a century, but by the mid-seventeenth century “Chocolate Houses” were opening in London. Chocolate pots appeared within a few decades as vessels expressly designed to serve the increasingly fashionable hot chocolate beverage. As a luxury drink, chocolate was generally served in silver pots or, rarely, in porcelain vessels. Chocolate pots in lesser metals are seldom seen.

Care was required in serving the beverage as the chocolate could separate from its milk solution and sink to the bottom of the pot. For this reason most early chocolate pots had their handle on the side, ninety degrees from the spout’s position. These handles were usually made of turned wood in a baluster form and allowed the server to gently shake the pot when serving the beverage and thus keep the chocolate in solution.

As use of the beverage evolved the finials of chocolate pots were hinged or could be slid aside to enable a molionet or stick to be inserted with which to stir the beverage while it was being served. Still later this process was modified to include a stirring wand inside the pot and attached to a moveable finial. Keeping the pot’s handle on the side facilitated the manipulation of the finial or stick to keep the chocolate in solution.

As time moved on better methods of mixing the beverage’s components were developed to diminish separation and it was no longer necessary to make pots with side handles or stirring wands. The pot’s handle was moved back to its traditional location opposite the spout and assumed the standard ‘ear’ form. If the pot lacks the side handle or stirrer it may be said to be a chocolate pot based on its size being smaller than traditional coffee or tea pots.

By the mid-eighteenth century drinking chocolate began to fade from fashion and fewer chocolate pots were made. The fashion was revived late in the nineteenth century and early twentieth century when numerous porcelain manufactories made “chocolate sets” complete with a tall pot, sets of mugs and a tray.

As a side note: the drink we know as hot chocolate was originally known only as chocolate, the modifier “hot” was added only later to distinguish it from consuming chocolate directly from bars.

Reference note by p4A editorial staff, 2010.

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