Tag Archives: chocolatière

Serving Luxury: The Evolution of the Chocolate Pot

A 1989 article in The New York Times reported that “top-of-the-market” chocolate pots made in 17th and 18th century England were selling for between $30,000 and $50,000 to museums (Deitz, 38). Five figures might appear a steep price for an antiquated household tool intended to produce what we might now consider “hot chocolate,” but––nearly four centuries after their emergence in Europe––chocolate pots continue to fetch high prices at antique auctions around the world.

The status of the chocolate pot, or chocolatière, as a rarity and luxury item is no new phenomenon. Often engraved with family crests, decorated with paintings on fine porcelain, or molded from precious metals, the chocolate pot has, throughout its history, become as much of a status symbol as the chocolate it holds. This blog post will investigate the chocolatière’s role in chocolate’s spread around the globe and how it changed the ways in which individuals enjoyed this delicacy. The chocolate pot, or chocolatière, not only serves as an important artifact aiding in the expansion of chocolate’s popularity but embodies broader themes of globalization, class, and production inseparable from the consumption of chocolate.

“Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity,” The New York Times.

The Origins of the Chocolate Pot

As with chocolate itself, the origins of the chocolate pot remain somewhat murky and reflect a tendency to overlook the roles played by non-Europeans in its creation. Many sources credit the invention of the chocolatières as we know them today to France in the 17th century as aristocrats began to incorporate expensive chocolate––consumed as a beverage first introduced to Europe by Spain––into their fine dining experiences (Righthand). What set apart French chocolate pots, often crafted from silver and other metals like copper or gold, from other cooking vessels was a space in the lid through which a “mill” could be inserted to stir and froth its ingredients (Lange, 131). Such “milling” of the chocolate drink (often consisting of ground cacao, hot water, milk, sugar, and spices) was a necessity before the invention of more industrialized “emulsification” technologies in the 19th century that rendered the pot largely obsolete (Righthand).

Despite this French origin story, scholars like Michael and Sophie Coe in The True History of Chocolate note the degree to which this device was invented outside of the country. As France expanded its diplomatic efforts with Siam, an ambassador from the region was said to have brought chocolate pots crafted from precious metals as a gift to the French despite a lack of chocolate consumption in Siam (Coe, 157). This anecdote reveals the extent to which increasing globalization­­––as well as colonial and imperial ambitions––led to innovation and the modification of chocolate technologies. A 17th century sketch, made by Philippe Sylvestre Dufour (pictured below), depicts stereotypical illustrations of individuals from different parts of the world gathered for a drink, a chocolate pot sitting between them. The imperial connotations of this illustration show the ways in which England hoped to spread its “civility” ––represented by the chocolate pot and other utensils–– as it carved out its colonial empire.

Dufour Illustration.
Source: Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019. (Online as Public Domain).

Despite these tales, the chocolate pot’s true invention can be traced back to early Mesoamerica. The Mayan and Aztec people, in addition to other indigenous groups in the region, were some of the first to consume chocolate in its liquid form, relying on vessels to contain and froth chocolate.[1] Early Mesoamerican chocolate was frothed by being poured into several different containers that––in contrast to their smaller metal European counterparts––could be three-feet tall and, according to the Smithsonian Magazine, had a “long, slender body” (Righthand). The chocolate pot is a fascinating example of the ways in which chocolate technologies, like the chocolate itself, was adapted for different cultural contexts and came to take on new meanings as it circulated the globe. The chocolate pot popularized by the French would quickly inspire similar creations in England which soon became a prized commodity and imported good of North American colonists (Lange 131).

Chinese Porcelain Design Chocolate Pot, 19th Century. (Public Domain).

The Chocolatière and Luxury

With its origins tied to the French nobility and their chocolate habits, the chocolate pot was viewed not only as a product of increasing global trade, but as a luxury item. Because chocolate beverages were so expensive and not yet available to the masses, they called for serving equipment made of equally refined materials like silver and porcelain (Righthand). According to The True History of Chocolate, prominent figures ranging from Marie Antoinette to French philosophers like Diderot where pictured alongside, or made references to, the chocolate pot (Coe, 219). The chocolate pot emerged alongside the increasingly popularity of chocolate beverages that, pricier than tea or coffee, became a favorite of Europe’s wealthiest (Mintz, 110). However, like tea and coffee, “unfamiliar” chocolate drinks became more widespread in England thanks to the common practice of adding sugar to beverages (Mintz 137). In both France and England––and eventually in what would become the United Space––the chocolate pot allowed for new types of gathering and social spaces among the elite. Chocolate houses in England, France, and North America became a space in which intellectuals, politicians, and business leaders could meet to discuss pressing issues while pouring from chocolate pots (Mintz 110).

The social implications of chocolate pots are strikingly clear from their portrayals in art. According to an article in the Smithsonian Magazine, chocolate pots were often included in colonial paintings and portraits alongside the bed as they were considered symbols of leisure and of the wealth that made this leisure possible (Righthand). The detailed monogramming and design of the chocolate pots as indicators of family wealth transform chocolate vessels into their own works of art––further reflected in their contemporary inclusion in museums and auctions. In this way, the European chocolate pot was not unlike its Mesoamerican predecessors which often featured their own hieroglyphics and drawings.[2]

The Legacy of the Chocolate Pot

The chocolate pot began to transform and ultimately see its decline in the 19th and 20th centuries as the result of chemist Van Houten’s introduction of Dutch chocolate which no longer required the pots to contain an opening for mixing, less expensive chocolate production, and the increasing popularity of tea and coffee (Lange, 138-139). However, this tool remains an important item of study in charting the history of chocolate. The chocolate pot reveals the centrality of evolving technologies in altering chocolate consumption patterns and the ways in these technologies were influenced by unique cultural contexts. With limited numbers of authentic chocolate pots surviving until contemporary times, this artifact remains a luxury, status symbol, and rarity.

Media Citations

Chocolate Pot with Design Imitating Meissen, Chinese Porcelain, 1800-1830. New Castle, 8 May 2013. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chocolate_pot_with_design_imitating_Meissen,_Chinese_porcelain,_1800-1830_-_Winterthur_Museum_-_DSC01530.JPG.

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019.

Deitz, Paula. “ANTIQUES; Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity.” The New York Times, 19 Feb. 1989, p. 38, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D. The True History of Chocolate. 2019.

Deitz, Paula. “ANTIQUES; Chocolate Pots Brewed Ingenuity.” The New York Times, 19 Feb. 1989, p. 38, https://www.nytimes.com/1989/02/19/arts/antiques-chocolate-pots-brewed-ingenuity.html.

Lange, Amanda. “Chocolate Preparation and Serving Vessels in Early 10 North America.” Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage, edited by Shapiro, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2009, pp. 129–142.

Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. Penguin Books, 1986.

Righthand, Jess. “A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot.” Smithsonian Magazine, 13 Feb. 2015, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/.

[1] Reference to images of the Rio Azul vessels presented in lecture by Dr. Carla Martin.

[2] Ibid.

Europe Conquers the New World, Chocolate Conquers Europe

To study the history of chocolate in Europe since the 17th century is to study the socioeconomic climate of the time throughout Europe.  The introduction of chocolate to the European continent occurred via the Spanish conquistadors who discovered the cacao beans and the chocolate drink made from these beans when they interacted with the indigenous peoples.  It is believed that in 1544 Europe got their first taste of chocolate prepared in this way when the conquistadors reported back to the Spanish court with a delegation of Kekchi Mayan Indians who bore gifts for their conquerors, including beaten chocolate (Presilla, 24).  From the Spanish court, chocolate made its way into the lives of the elites in Spain, England and France, as well as other European countries, before becoming the staple commodity widely available to all social classes that it has become today.  Although the nations of Spain, England and France were distinct and undergoing different social and political climates during the time of the arrival of chocolate in the Old World, the history of chocolate consumption in these countries does share the commonality that in both chocolate began as a luxury affordable only to those of greater means before it became the widely accessible commodity it is known as today.


Mayan vase from Chama.  Source: The New Taste of Chocolate, Revised by Marcela E. Presilla

The above image is of a Maya vase from Chama, a region of Guatemala in which cacao is harvested, and shows a chieftain like that of the Kekchi Mayans being carried in a hammock, as was the chief of the Kekchi when he first introduced chocolate to Philip II of Spain.

Spain was one of several European countries to be impacted by the arrival of chocolate from the New World.  Although accounts vary as to how it got to Spain, it is known for certain that by the first half of the seventeenth century the same chocolate that the Spanish creole of Mexico were drinking had integrated into the Spanish Court (Coe, 131).  The way that it was consumed, however, was much more regal than it had been in present-day Mexico.  As it was coveted primarily by the Spanish royals, the way in which this chocolate was consumed became more refined over time.  In the mid-17th century the viceroy of Peru, Marques de Mancera invented a device to prevent ladies from spilling their chocolate onto their finery; The mancerina featured a silver saucer with a large ring in the middle into which a small cup would fit snugly and offered a solution for those noble Spaniards who had the luxury of owning valuable clothing worth protecting from chocolate (Coe, 135).  In fact, chocolate was so commonplace to these Spanish elites that around 1680 it was common to serve it and other sweets to officials during the public executions of the Spanish Inquisition (Snodgrass, 207).  Cosimo de’ Medici of Spain, who later became Grand Duke of Tuscany, was also known to consume chocolate liberally during the public and grand events of the Spanish nobility of Baroque Spain, including while watching a bullfight with the Spanish king, and earned himself a reputation as a “chocoholic” resultantly  (Coe, 135). 


The Mancerina. Source: http://www.ascasonline.org/newsGENNA104.html

The origin of chocolate in France is not known with certainty.  But its association with nobility was not very different in France than it was in Spain.  In Louis XIV’s decadent Palace of Versailles chocolate was a staple served at all public events hosted for the French elite.  It wasn’t until the King’s wife died and he married the conservative Madame de Maintenon that the ruler became thrifty and consumption of chocolate in the palace ended (Coe, 156).  Like the Spanish, the French had appropriated special vessels for serving chocolate.  The chocolatiere, a long vessel with a spout, hinged lid and a straight wooden handle, both poured and frothed the chocolate for serving and was surely made of silver if it was to be used by elites (Smithsonian, 2015).  In France, as in other parts of Europe, the drinking of chocolate was at times taboo for women.  When the Infanta Maria Teresa married the King of France in 1660, she brought Spanish women to serve in her court but was forbidden from drinking chocolate with them and took to doing so in private, as the act was not permissible for noble French women (Coe, 154).  However, this taboo did not last long; In 1671 the marquis de Sevigne wrote to her ill daughter that chocolate would make her well again saying:

“But you are not well, you have hardly slept, chocolate will set you up again.  But you do not have a chocolatiere [chocolate-pot]; I have thought of it a thousand times; what will you do?  Alas, my child, you are not wrong when you believe that I worry about you more than you worry about me.” (Coe, 155)

During this time, chocolate had a reputation for being untouchable to those of modest means.  Recently at Hampton Court Palace researchers discovered a chocolate kitchen, a room in which the King’s personal chocolatier procured chocolate delights for the King and his court on a daily basis.  So essential was this indulgence to the King that his chocolatier was known to travel with him to provide him with his sweet supply.  As in France and Spain, the luxuriousness of consuming chocolate was not limited to the food itself but also included the means by which the chocolate was consumed.  Pots for serving the beverage were often made of silver or gold.  In fact, William III is reputed to have used a chocolate pot that was made of gold and weighed 33 oz!  Many were employed in the making of chocolate and the associated paraphernalia and these costs associated with consumption meant that the drink was unattainable for many (Historic Royal Palaces, 2014)

The article linked below was published by the Smithsonian Institute and outlines the rise and fall of chocolate as the food of nobility.  At one point it details the means by which chocolate eventually became accessible to people of all classes in Europe and the United States.  The Industrial Revolution was in large part to thank for driving down the costs associated with chocolate consumption during the 19th century.  For example, it was during this time that Coenraad Van Houton invented the cocoa process, which created cocoa powder, a staple ingredient of many chocolate products consumed today.  While it is easy to see chocolate today as something that is off-limits to no one, to understand the history of chocolate is to understand that in Europe the commodity began as a luxury to be enjoyed by only those of the highest privilege.



Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver (photographer).  (2012). Mancerina.  [digital image].  Retrieved from: http://www.ascasonline.org/newsGENNA104.html

Baker, Mary Louise. (Photographer). (1926).  Rollout watercolor of the Ratinlixul vase from Guatemala.  [digital image].  Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Coe, M. & Coe, S. (2013).  The true history of chocolate.  London, UK: Thames & Hudson, Ltd.

Historic Royal Palaces.  (2014, September 3).  The making of the chocolate kitchen [Video file].  Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QslIjfi_-I

Righthand, J. (2015).  A brief history of the chocolate pot.  Smithsonian Institute.  Retrieved from: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/

Presilla, M.E. (2009).  The new taste of chocolate revised: A cultural and natural history of cacao with recipes.  Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Snodgrass, M.E. (2004).  Encyclopedia of kitchen history.  New York, NY: Fitzroy Dearborn.

Containing Chocolate and Culture

The instruments used to hold chocolate reveal more about the history and culture of the time period than one might first assume. Chocolate consumption began with the Olmecs, a civilization who lived along the Gulf Coast of Mexico between 1500 BC and 400 BC (Presilla, 46). Around 500 AD, the Mayan people also embraced chocolate as a drink and as part of traditional rituals like marriage, funerals, and religious ceremonies. Over 1000 years later, chocolate had made its way to Europe as a luxury enjoyed by the elite members of society (Coe and Coe, 158). The transformation of chocolate from a religious food to an indulgence for the wealthy is reflected through the vessels used to contain cacao. The culture and beliefs surrounding chocolate are reflected by a vessel found in a Mayan tomb discovery and the French silver chocolatière.



In 1984, archeologists uncovered a Mayan tomb from the late 5th century containing 14 decorated vessels. This tomb was found at Rio Azul, a Maya city located in Guatemala (Presilla, 46). Specifically, one artifact found in this tomb helped researchers to discover Cacao’s importance in Mayan funeral traditions. In their book, Michael D. Coe and Sophie D. Coe describe the artifact:


“There was a single example of an extremely rare form, a stirrup-handled pot with a screw-on lid. This strange object had been surfaced with stucco and brilliantly painted with six large hieroglyphs, including two which read ‘cacao.’” (Coe and Coe, 46)

Kakaw_(Mayan_word).pngFigure 1:  A close up of the glyph that helped identify this vessel. This symbol meant “cacao” in the Classic Maya period. 

Figure 2 (on left): The pot found at Rio Azul that Coe describes.


For the Mayans, chocolate was more than just a substance to consume. Chocolate held spiritual power. This connection between religion and chocolate is clear when we take into consideration the location of this pot. This artifact was found in a tomb, surrounding the body of the deceased ruler. When tested in a lab, this screw-top jar had traces of caffeine and theobromine—the two trace compounds found together only in chocolate (Martin.) This discovery confirmed that the ruler was buried with chocolate. For further proof that the vessel contained chocolate, researcher David Stuart decoded the glyphs along the outside to read “a drinking vessel for witik cacao, for kox caco” (Coe and Coe, 46).

Funerals and chocolate were also linked in Mayan scripture.  The Mayans believed that chocolate eased the journey to the underworld. Chocolate is mentioned in conjunction with different religious rituals in the Dresden Codex, a Maya text that still exists today (Martin).

Not only does the Rio Azul discovery reveal the connection between religion and chocolate, it also clues us into the consumption process. Some of the other vases are tall and narrow. They were picked up and poured into other pots to increase the foam.
Figure 3: This image is found on the Princeton Vase, and it depicts the process in which people made the chocolate drink. The chocolate was poured from one jug to the other to add froth, as the foam was considered the most important part. 



Luxury in the 18th century France

In France in the 17th and 18th centuries, the vessels used to contain chocolate also reflect the attitudes towards chocolate and the way it was imbibed. Chocolate was heralded as a beneficial delicacy with many health benefits. The French “are usually credited with the invention of the chocolatière, the chocolate pot ”(Coe and Coe, 156). Many of the elite took chocolate daily to cure a number of ailments (Coe and Coe, 156). The vessels from which hot chocolate was poured reflect the extravagance of the segment of society who embraced chocolate.


Figure 4 and 5: This chocolatière, currently on display in the Metropolitan museum of art, was made in the 1760s and  is typical for the time period.





“The French innovation seems to have been fix a straight wooden handle to the metal pot at right angles to the spout; this handle was usually unscrewed clockwise so that it would remain tight while pouring from the pot in a counter-clockwise motion. At the top was a hinged lid, with a central hole under the swiveling (or hinged) finial to take the handle of the moussoir (“froth maker”), as they called the molinillo.… Of course, this would have been in silver, as would the chocolatiers of all the nobility.” – Coe 


The extravagance of this pot highlights how only the wealthy had access to chocolate at the time. The average citizen would have never been able to afford such an intricate piece of silverware (Righthand). Chocolatières were also used as gifts between royalty. Coe cites the first appearance of a silver chocolatières in France as a gift from a Siamese mission. “It was not that the Thai had suddenly turned into chocolate drinkers (they never did so), but [the minister to the King of Siam] had obviously instructed the royal metalsmiths to turn out something that would appeal to the French court.” And the metalsmith’s idea of what would appeal to the French court was an extravagant set of chocolatières. The chocolatières given to the French court incuded “two chocolatières in silver, one with golden flowers and the other Japenned” as well as another “entirely in gold” (Coe and Coe, 158). Chocolatières were brought as a gift and to signify diplomacy. This incident establishes the way chocolate was viewed in society—something for only the elite to enjoy for pleasure.



Figure 6:  “La Famille du duc de Penthièvre en 1768” a painting by Jean-Baptiste Charpentier illustrates how chocolate was for the wealthy.


Same food, different cultures

For the Europeans of the 17th century, chocolate was a status symbol. As the price was still expensive, only the wealthy could afford to take chocolate. The intricacies of the chocolatières highlight their function in society. For the most part, chocolate no longer held any spiritual affiliation. While the Mayan pots were decorated with glyphs and drawings depicting what was inside and religious rituals, the chocolatières were ornately decorated illustrating the wealth and class of those who used them. Although both pots hold chocolate, their uses and sociological function were very different, illustrating the adaptation of chocolate as it spread to Europe as a secular delicacy, rather than a religious artifact.


Works cited:

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the ‘Food of the Gods.’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 Feb. 2017. Class Lecture.

Righthand, Jess. “A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot.” Smithsonian.com. February 13, 2015. Accessed March 10, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/brief-history-chocolate-pot-180954241/.

Presilla, Maricel E. The New Taste of Chocolate Revised. Ten Speed Press: Berkeley, CA, 2009 Print.







The Evolution of the Chocolatière: From French Innovation to Retirement in Museums

As the 16th century cultural exchange between the Old and New World progressed, the consumption of cacao beverages transitioned from being a ritualistic foodstuff among the ancient populations of the Americas to a new, European luxury. It is alleged that in 1606 chocolate was brought to Italy from Spain by a traveler and, from this point on, began to spread to other major European nations such as France (“A Concise History of Chocolate,”). In 1648, France emerged from the Thirty Years’ War and was beginning to enjoy a period of political and economic stability; thus, French citizens had the economic capability and the social curiosity to invest in new luxury trends such as the production and consumption of cacao beverages (Perkins 89).

A traditional French chocolatière pot made of silver and amaranth wood. This pot was made in 1774 by Frenchman Joseph-Thèodore Van Cauwenbergh.

When cacao spread to Europe, the French hybridized ancient Mesoamerican techniques with new and refined values to create a Europeanized production of cacao beverages. A physical result of this hybridization is the chocolatière pot, a French invention that encompassed both efficiency in making and serving the beverage and a sophisticated aesthetic. This pot did more than supply a vessel in which chocolate beverages could be produced and consumed; it created a distinctly French niche within the international chocolate production scene. The French were motivated to making up for their late arrival as participants in the international chocolate industry by fashioning sturdy, sophisticated cookware. Commonly, a traditional chocolatière pot is a pear-shaped vessel made out of metal- usually silver or gold- that features a hinged or removable lid. The lid contains a hole to place the handle of the “moulinet,” which is normally made of wood and is used to rapidly froth the beverage before serving. Although the chocolatière itself was French, it combined the basic shape and idea of ancient Mesoamerican gourd vessels and the wooden frothing instrument of the colonial Spaniards, the molinillo (Perkins 90). The chocolatière experienced a rise in popularity, particularly among the elite and the royal, until its decline and ultimate disappearance from the French household after the Industrial Revolution (Righthand).

The legacy of chocolate in France begins with the marriage between Anne of Austria and Louis XIII in 1615 (Coe and Coe 150). Austria had already been introduced to the chocolate making process and it is likely that chocolate was exchanged as wedding gifts between the newlyweds. France’s earliest, most notable supporter of chocolate products was Alphonse de Richelieu who promoted the consumption of cacao for medicinal purposes (Perkins 90). Chocolate was quickly gaining popularity with the elite- by the start of the reign of Louis XIV in 1643 chocolate was served daily in Versailles. This new trend necessitated innovations for more efficient self-production; resultantly, the French chocolatière was created. Although the origin of the chocolatière is not completely known, Sophie and Michael Coe support the theory that it was a French invention (158). Records show that chocolatières were given as gifts to French royalty from foreign nations in the late 1600s, yet it is hypothesized that the invention predates these records and evidence of such has not been found or preserved (Coe and Coe 158). The first substantial reference to a chocolatière pot is dated to 1671, when Marquise de Sévigné laments about the tragedy of her daughter not having access to a chocolatière (Coe and Coe 154).

“But you do not have a chocolatière; I have thought of it a thousand times; what will you do? Alas, my child, you are not wrong when you believe that I worry about you more than you worry about me,” (Coe and Coe 155).

As chocolate gained popularity, the chocolatière pot was mentioned in most chocolate-related literature for the rest of the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the most notable works include Nicolas Blégny’s 1687 work of Le bon usage du thé, du cafféet du chocolat and François Massaliote’s Nouvelle Instruction pour les Confitures, le Liqueurs, et les Fruits in 1734  (Perkins 90-92). The pot became a physical symbol of France’s involvement in this international trend.

But by the end of the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, chocolate production practices had began to change and progress. Chocolate became a more widely available product and small volume production equipment such as the chocolatière was becoming less desired. In 1828, the cocoa press was invented by Conrad Johannes Van Houton (Righthand). The press allowed for quick production of cocoa powder which could easily be mixed with water to create chocolate beverages- thus, the

One of the most famous pieces of art that features chocolatières and chocolate serving table pieces is “Le Dejeuner,” by François Boucher.  A viewer can notice the chocolatière pot featured in the center background of the piece.

chocolatière pot was becoming archaic in the presence of the new technology. By the conclusion of the 19th century, new technology had revolutionized chocolate manufacturing and lessened the demand for the chocolatière pot.

The 19th and 20th centuries experienced the disappearance of chocolatières due to their low demand; however, an increased interest in antiquities for gift giving is fostering a revival of the pots. Traditional chocolatières and any associated artwork are now popular attractions in museums and pricey investments in modern antique shops.

Here is an interactive “exploration,” of a traditional chocolatière pot held in the Walters Art Museum. The animation only allows the viewer to zoom in/out but it has clear quality for observing details such as lid engravings: http://art.thewalters.org/detail/5934/chocolate-pot/



Works Cited:

“A Concise History of Chocolate.” C-Spot. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Boucher, François. “Le Dejeuner.” 1739. Oil on canvas. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. London: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Perkins, Suzanne, Grivetti, Louis, Yana Shapiro, Howard. “Introduction: The Chocolatière and the Refinement of Aristocratic Manners in Early Modern France.” Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.

Righthand, Jess. “A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot.” History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places | Smithsonian. Smithsonian Magazine. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

Cacao Makes its Route to Europe

Many would agree that chocolate plays an integral role in our lives today, but how did chocolate evolve into such a loved treat in the modern world? The history of chocolate is rich and unique in its kind and being able to understand how cacao was introduced, spread and hybridized in Europe, may ultimately enhance our appreciation of the godly good.

The Genesis of Chocolate

The Olmec are believed to be the first Mesoamerican group to cultivate cacao. Writings and8646216390_a8a1b11a31_o copy artifacts also suggest that the cacao had a major ritual and ceremonial significance in the Maya society (Martin). The cacao was further consumed and traded among elite individuals, traders and soldiers in the Aztec society. The cacao was primarily consumed as a beverage, carefully prepared with maize, chili peppers, and other domestic spices (Martin). More information and Mesoamerican recipes of chocolate beverages can be found here!

The First European Encounter

Christopher Columbus encountered cacao beans during one of his early voyages but he did not realize the value of these “almonds” nor did he taste them (Coe and Coe, 109). It was not until in 1544 that chocolate made its way across the Atlantic to Europe when a group of Maya nobles brought it as a gift for the Spanish court (Coe and Coe, 130-131). Chocolate became particularly popular during the Baroque Age and spread quickly among royalties and aristocratic families in Europe (Coe and Coe 125; Priscilla, 24). Chocolate houses were eventually introduced in Britain and became natural meeting places for affluent males who enjoyed discussing politics (Martin).

Cacao spread quickly among European courts and palaces during the Baroque Age. Pictured is the family of the Duke of Penthièvre drinking chocolate.


The cacao was initially considered a luxury good and was solely consumed by elite individuals in Europe, similarly to the Aztec society. The spiritual meaning of the cacao however was almost entirely stripped down and the cacao was first introduced for medicinal use in Europe (Coe and Coe, 126). Europeans adopted the tradition of consuming the cacao as a beverage but sweetened the

An aztec woman frothing a cacao beverage.

drink with sugar and substituted spices such as chili pepper and ear flower with commonly used spices such as vanilla and cinnamon (Coe and Coe, 146). Moreover, the Europeans also adopted the tradition of foaming the chocolate. Instead of pouring the drinks back and forth between vessels, they used molinillo whisks (Coe and Coe, 156-157). The French later introduced the Chocolatière among many other posh dining ware that facilitated consumption of cacao beverages among the aristocracy in Europe (Coe and Coe, 156-157). Similar frothers and dining ware were found in other parts of Europe during the Baroque Age and this marks an interesting point of material culture.

French chocolate pots introduced during the Baroque Age had built-in sticks that enabled frothing.



The Europeans initially adopted somewhat similar methods of consumption of chocolate as the Mesoamericans. They initially consumed it as a frothed beverage and added spices. The hybridization of the original drink was vital to facilitate the dissemination and appreciation of cacao. Similarly, to Aztec society, cacao was considered a luxury good and it was not until later that industrial progress and mechanization enabled chocolate to became available to members of all social classes. These industrial progresses facilitated the emergence of bulk chocolate and it seems worthwhile to reflect on how the chocolate that we consume today greatly differs from the chocolate that was initially consumed by the Mesoamericans.



Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2013. Print.

Martin, Carla D. “Mesoamerica and the “food of the gods”.” Harvard University. Cambridge, MA. 3 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Presilla, Marciel, E. The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of Cacao with Recipes. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2009. Print.


Media Sources

Charpentier le Vieux, Jean-Baptiste. La Famille du duc de Penthièvre en 1768 ou La Tasse de Chocolat. 1768. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, 2014. Web. 19 Feb 2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ALa_famille_du_Duc_de_Penthi%C3%A8vre_dit_la_tasse_de_chocolat.jpg

Leone Puno, James. Roasted Cacao Beans. Flickr, 2013. Digital image. Web. 19 Feb.2016. https://flic.kr/p/eb37Uo

Mujer vertiendo chocolate – Codex Tudela. 1553. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, 2010. Web. 19 Feb 2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMujer_vertiendo_chocolate_-_Codex_Tudela.jpg

Van Cauwenbergh, Joseph-Théodore. Chocolate Pot. 1774. Digital image. Wikimedia Commons, 2012. Web. 19 Feb. 2016. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph-Théodore_Van_Cauwenbergh_-_Chocolate_Pot_-_Walters_571802.jpg