Tag Archives: mancerina

The Mancerina and Chocolate Consumption in 17th-Century Spain

In 1544, Kekchi Maya nobles traveled to Spain and presented Prince Philip with a variety of gifts from Mesoamerica (Coe, 1996). Among these gifts were quetzal feathers, chillis, maize, and chocolate. Scholars believe this interaction between Kekchi and Spanish nobility is the first example of chocolate in Europe (Coe, 1996). Following this exchange, Spain began importing cacao from Mesoamerica. By 1600, the Spanish royal court was regularly consuming chocolate in the form of a hot beverage (Coe, 1996). The introduction of chocolate to Europe spurred the development of a unique, European culture of chocolate production and consumption. This culture included the invention of special materials used to consume chocolate, including the Spanish mancerina (Coe, 1996).

A mancerina is a small plate with a raised ring in the center. The raised ring holds a small chocolate-filled cup in place and prevents it from sliding off of the plate (Moore, 2003). The mancerina was developed to prevent Spanish nobles from spilling chocolate beverages on themselves. In the 17th century, chocolate in Spain was associated with royalty and indulgence. Wealthy, high-ranking members of society consumed the exotic and decadent drink at parties, often while dancing (Coe, 1996). The mancerina thus allowed people to consume their beverage while they danced, without fear of spilling it. The mancerina, therefore, was integral to the culture of chocolate consumption in Spain, marked by nobility and excess.

Although the mancerina is a symbol of 17th-century Spanish chocolate consumption, it was not invented in Spain. Rather, it was invented by Don Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, the Marquis of Mancera, in Peru (Coe, 1996). Don Alvarez was serving as the Spanish Viceroy of Peru when he witnessed a woman at a royal gathering spill chocolate on herself (Coe, 1996). As a result, he commissioned a silversmith in Lima to craft a saucer with a raised center capable of balancing a cup to prevent spills: the mancerina (Coe, 1996). The mancerina was eventually brought to Europe and crafted using porcelain instead of silver (Coe, 1996).

Likewise, despite the mancerina’s association with Spanish nobility and chocolate consumption, the cup that the mancerina holds, called a jicara, is modeled off of pre-Columbian drinking vessels (Moore, 2003). The design of the jicara is based off of bowl-like cups made of gourds used in Mesoamerica before the Spanish arrival (Moore, 2003). As such, the mancerina, central to Spanish chocolate consumption culture, was heavily influenced by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican traditions and inventions.  

The invention of the mancerina reinforced chocolate’s association with royalty and indulgence in Spain. Not only was the mancerina used to serve chocolate, a beverage that was considered exotic and luxurious, but the mancerina itself was made of porcelain, another exotic and luxurious material. Additionally, it was invented in order to facilitate the consumption of chocolate at royal parties. “The mancerina lent a certain protocol to the act of taking chocolate and heightened the status of those who could afford the product and all of its accoutrements” (Forrest and Najjaj, 2007). In addition to symbolizing the lavishness of chocolate, the mancerina was itself a lavish item that contributed to the indulgent culture of chocolate consumption in 17th-century Spain.

Furthermore, the invention of materials like the mancerina contributed to the Europeanization of chocolate and the development of a culture of chocolate consumption marked by wealth, indulgence, and colonial power. The mancerina was created to accommodate a mode of chocolate consumption that Europeans considered unique from and superior to chocolate consumption in Mesoamerica (Forrest and Najjaj, 2007). In order to remake chocolate in their own image, Europeans forwent the chillis and maize that indigenous people often added to their chocolate beverages, and instead added sugar, bread, and other materials they considered their own. In the same way, Europeans developed their own drinking vessels, like the mancerina, in order to enjoy chocolate in a uniquely European way. The appropriation of chocolate and modes of chocolate consumption in Europe represented feelings of “nationalism and cultural superiority” (Forrest and Najjaj, 2007). The mancerina served to reinforce the notion that chocolate belonged to Europe. In addition to the invention of new chocolate beverage recipes, the development of materials like the mancerina, designed specifically for chocolate consumption in Europe, contributed to the appropriation of chocolate and the development of a European culture of chocolate consumption denoted by wealth, indulgence, and colonial power.

Following the introduction of chocolate to Europe by Kekchi Maya nobles in 1544, a culture of chocolate consumption developed in Spain. Chocolate came to be identified with royalty, decadence, and power. Central to the development of this culture was the invention of materials designed to accommodate modes of chocolate consumption specific to royal European society. One such material was the mancerina, a porcelain saucer designed to securely balance a chocolate-filled cup, which exemplified and contributed to the lavish culture surrounding chocolate in 17th-century Spain.

A drawing of 17th-century Spanish nobles sipping chocolate from mancerinas (Coe, 1996).

A porcelain mancerina, crafted sometime between 1735 and 1760 (Torrecid).

A porcelain mancerina, crafted sometime between 1770 and 1798, designed to look like a dove (Torrecid).


“Ceramic Art Collection.” Torrecid, http://www.torrecid.com/museum/index.php/ceramic-art-collection/.

Coe, Sophie D, and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Forrest, Beth Marie, and April L Najjaj. “Is Sipping Sin Breaking Fast? The Catholic Chocolate Controversy and the Changing World of Early Modern Spain.” Food and Foodways: Chocolate: Case Studies in History and Culture, vol. 15, no. 1-2, 2007, pp. 31–52.

Moore, Janet H. “Culture and Thought—Arts: Peking on the Rio Grande—An Art Form that Mixes Cranes, Cacti and Cultures.” Asian Wall Street Journal, Feb 07, 2003, ProQuest, http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/315498543?accountid=11311.

European Appropriation of Chocolate Recipes and Presentation

Today, chocolate is often seen as a frivolous treat to enjoy in passing throughout the day. At times, it is thought of as a luxury good, marketed to have been crafted by a world class chocolatier from some general European country. Historically though, as we have discussed in lecture, ancient Mesoamericans not only utilized cacao as a food and beverage, but it also acted as an important means of currency in many societies and held spiritual and religious significance. It was such a well-rounded and well-integrated part of life. In this blog post, I will expand on how chocolate recipes were observed by Europeans only to be appropriated and used as a means to claim European superiority over Mesoamerican people.

To begin, ancient Mesoamerican civilizations used cacao as an important and integrative part of their daily lives. In saying this, it is important to not generalize the “Mesoamerica” as one people. Certain themes do permeate different civilizations in modern day North and Central America to a degree, but that is not to treat Mesoamerica as one large group. That being said, we can look to sources to give us a picture of how Mesoamerican civilizations used cacao and chocolate.

Map of Mesoamerica, different civilizations were spread geographically and naturally differed culturally in treatment and preparation of cacao and chocolate

According to foodtimeline.org, ancient Mayan and Aztecs “consumed it, in beverage form, for religious ceremonies and medicinal purposes. Cocoa beans were sometimes used as money” (Olver n.pag.). One thing that was more universal in Mesoamerica was the addition of chili to chocolate drink, but due to the varying degrees of flavors and spiciness of these chilis that the preparation and tastes of these recipes varied greatly regionally (Olver n.pag.). This is a great example of a theme that applies to Mesoamerica at large, the adding of chili to chocolate recipes, but how this surface level application of a theme to the region is far too oversimplified.

Ancient Olmec vessels with traces of cacao, dating back to as far as 1,800 BCE (Concise n.pag.)

Also similar throughout Mesoamerica, particularly between the Maya and the Aztec was the method of preparing the frothy, foamy chocolate beverage. An anonymous Spanish conqueror said to be among the ranks of Hernan Cortez described the process of “cacao are ground and made into powder, and other small seeds are ground, and this powder is put into certain basins with a point… and then they put water on it and mix it with a spoon. And after having mixed it very well, they change it from one basin to another, so that a foam is raised which they put in a vessel made for the purpose” (Olver n.pag.). This serves as another example of a broad preparation theme that does differ between groups. While many groups consumed this beverage hot, it has been shown that the Maya of Yucatan drank this beverage cold (Olver n.pag.). This description is also important as it highlights a period before the European adoption of chocolate preparation from ancient Mesoamerican groups. At this point, all that is mentioned as a stirring device is a wooden or silver spoon, not the Spanish swizzle stick so often associated with this method of preparation (Olver n.pag.). This additional comment in this source led me as a student to become intrigued about what parts of preparation Europeans went on to adopt, what they authentically carried forward, or what preparation techniques they modified over time.

Spanish molinillo, this is from the 18th century, used probably by middle class Europeans to emulate practices of high class counterparts (Molinillo n.pag.)

The introduction of the swizzle stick, or molinillo, by Spaniards was only one part of the appropriation of chocolate to become suitable for Spanish royalty. We know that royal Spaniards rejected the Mesoamerican styles of serving chocolate, sipping it from a gourd or clay pot, and looked to alternatives. ““The solution came from overseas, in the form of the mancerina, which became a standard part of the Spanish chocolate service by the mid-17th century … Marques de Mancera … horrified at seeing one of the ladies present at a vice regal reception accidentally spill a jícara of chocolate on her dress…had a Lima silversmith make a plate or saucer with a collar like ring in the middle, into which a small cup would sit without being able to slip” (Coe 271). This is one way in which the actual Mesoamerican origins and cultural importance of cacao was veiled in order to appropriate it to European society. A “proper” silverware had to be invented to facilitate the neglect of chocolates Mesoamerican origin so that way Spanish royalty could enjoy it while not associating themselves with those that they conquered.

On top of this appropriated presentation of chocolate in royal circles, the recipes of chocolate preparation were then modified by Europeans. The way they discussed Mesoamerican styles of preparation and almost horrifying to read: “The Spanish, more industrious than the Savages, procured to correct the bad flavor of this liquor, adding to this cacao paste different fragrances of the East and many spices of this country [Spain]” (Norton 1). This 18th century account of the modification of chocolate recipes describes the Mesoamericans as “savages” and deems them inferior while hoisting up Spanish people as superior because they modified chocolate to their tastes.

From this history, we see that the adoption of chocolate from Mesoamerica to Europe was not a process of respect and cultural exchange but instead was closer to theft, appropriation, and neglect of Mesoamerican people. Although extracting cacao, chocolate recipes, and inspiration for preparation, they took their modifications of chocolate and its rituals as superior and used it as yet another tool to claim superiority over the indigenous people of the Americas.

Works Cited

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate with 99 Illustrations, 14 in Colour. Thames & Hudson, 2013.

“A CONCISE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE.” c-Spot, http://www.c-spot.com/atlas/historical-timeline/.

“Map of Mesoamerica – Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.” FAMSI, http://www.famsi.org/maps/.

“Molinillo or Chocolate Whisk.” National Museum of American History, americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1460190.

Norton, Marcy. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review, vol. 111, no. 3, 2006, pp. 660–691., doi:10.1086/ahr.111.3.660.

Olver, Lynne. “Food Timeline FAQs: Aztec, Maya, & Inca Foods and Recipes.” The Food Timeline–Aztec, Maya & Inca Foods, http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodmaya.html#aztec.

Changing Opinions of Cacao and Chocolate Through History

The crackdown on sugar and high-calorie foods garnered a lot of media attention in 2010 with the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act and the proposed ban on the sale of large sodas and other sugary drinks in New York and it brought a public health crisis into the spotlight. Chocolate as we know it today is itself an example of a sugary food with high caloric content common in the diets of many Americans. Dark chocolate, which often tastes bitter because it has higher cacao content and less sugar, contains an average of 14 grams of sugar per ounce (USDA). That said, most candy bars that contain chocolate far exceed that amount. Although a number of research studies conducted in the last two decades have highlighted potential health benefits of chocolate consumption (specifically dark chocolate), chocolate is often referred to as a “guilty pleasure” and it is seen in the public eye as something unhealthy associated with weight gain. We know that this was not the case throughout much of history, when cacao and chocolate were considered healthy and, in a few societies, as medicine. I find this shift in public opinion interesting and believe it to be a direct result of the democratization of chocolate and its high sugar content. By winding back the clock and analyzing changing perceptions of cacao and chocolate in different areas of the world with a focus on health, we can better understand when and why this transition happened.

Mesoamerican attitudes towards cacao (c. 600 C.E. – 1500 C.E.)

People in Central America and Mexico during the height of the Mayan and Aztec empires used cacao as an offering in healing rituals, to ensure successful travel, and during social unions such as banquets, baptisms, burials, weddings, and ceremonies to confirm the legitimacy of dynasties (Martin and Sampeck 39). The importance of cacao and its link to the gods can be found in the Dresden Codex, a Mayan book and the oldest surviving from the Americas, where “gods can be seen holding cacao pods, or dishes heaped with cacao beans” (Coe and Coe 42). In addition, cacao had several medicinal uses, including help with indigestion, inflammation, and fertility. Other applications of medicinal cacao used for afflictions can be found in Chilam Balam and The Ritual of the Bacams (18th century manuscripts recopied from ancient codices). Cacao was also prepared as a beverage using distinctive tools such as the molinillo, the steep-sided cup, and the spouted pot and ingredients including chile, custard apple, maize, achiote, and more ingredients specific to colonial Mesoamerica (Martin and Sampeck 42). Notably, the amount of sugar was much lower and the list of ingredients is wildly different from that of modern-day chocolate.

This colorized image is a representation of a drawing found in the Dresden Codex. It depicts the Opossum God carrying the Rain God on his back with a caption that reads “cacao is his food.” Interestingly, the scientific name for cacao, Theobroma Cacao, literally means “food of the gods.”

French attitudes towards chocolate (c. 1600 C.E. – 1800 C.E.)

Chocolate was likely introduced in France from Spain as a drug by Alphonse de Richelieu, who, as we learned in class, believed it could be used as a medicine for his spleen. Prevailing theories in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe credited chocolate as being “a generally nutritious, energizing, fortifying beverage” that was also “credited as being an antidepressant, an aphrodisiac, a laxative, an agent to strengthen the heart, liver, and lungs, and a treatment for hemorrhoids” (Cather Studies 285). By 1690, chocolate was a regular offering at Louis XIV’s court at Versailles and was popular among the aristocracy (Coe and Coe 157-60). There were, of course, conflicting opinions about chocolate and its merits, but nonetheless a culture developed around it among the wealthy such that when Thomas Jefferson assumed the role of Minister to France in 1785, he wrote the following in a letter to John Adams from Paris:

Chocolate. [T]his article when ready made, and also the [c]acao becomes so soon rancid, and the difficulties of getting it fresh have been so great in America that it’s use has spread but little … by getting it good in quality, and cheap in price, the superiority of the article both for health and nourishment will soon give it the same preference over tea & coffee in America which it has in Spain.”

RC (MHi: Adams Family Papers). PoC (DLC). Published in PTJ, 9:62–3.
The mancerina, pictured above, originated in Paris and was used to serve chocolate drinks. It is a testament to the chocolate culture that flourished among the nobility in France in the 1690s.

American attitudes towards chocolate (c. 1700 C.E. – 1950 C.E.)

Chocolate, although very rare at the time, had made its way into what would later become the state of Massachusetts, and more specifically onto Judge Samuel Sewall’s breakfast plate, by the year 1697. George Washington was apparently fond of chocolate, and “…connections to the drink have been attributed to patriot luminaries like Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, [and] Thomas Jefferson” (Laiskonis). Notably, however, chocolate was provided to the troops in the French and Indian War. Six pounds of chocolate was offered to each officer by Benjamin Franklin, who “…saw chocolate as a compact, energizing, and tasty food that could be easily carried and boosted morale” (National Geographic Partners 20). By 1800, chocolate was affordable for most colonists (while it was still an expensive drink reserved for the nobility in France) because they (the colonists) imported cacao beans directly from the Caribbean rather than buying them from the British to evade the cost of taxes (National Geographic Partners 18). The cost was further brought down with the rise of mechanization and changes in transportation. Chocolate went from being consumed primarily as a drink to a solid with the development of new techniques, namely pressing and tempering, and became less gritty with the invention of the conch in 1879. Major chocolate companies like Hershey’s, Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury, and Lindt became so successful by standardizing their recipes, scaling up their operations, investing in effective marketing techniques, extending the shelf life of their products, and eventually gaining control of the supply chain. Hershey’s and Nestlé also reaped the benefits of war by providing chocolate for U.S. army rations during WWII (Jacobson). Up until about 1945, therefore, chocolate was still viewed largely the same as it had been by Benjamin Franklin two centuries prior. The idea that chocolate could restore one’s strength, on the other hand, went all the way back to the Maya.

This Nestlé advert from 1942 proclaims that “Chocolate is a fighting food!” It describes specific attributes of the chocolate and plays on American patriotism during wartime. Chocolate has been implicated in the nation’s war efforts since before the American Revolution.


So, what caused the change in public opinion of chocolate after 1950? I believe that it was a combination of wide availability of chocolate back at home after WWII and the heavy advertising that chocolate companies did during the war. Additionally, our lives today are significantly more sedentary, and we consume more food/calories now than before. I would argue that all these factors shifted the focus from the benefits of chocolate to its sugar content as we became more aware of the grip of high calorie foods on our diet. It seems that tide is turning now, with research supporting some potential health benefits of chocolate.  

Works / References Cited

Belluz, Julia. Silhouette eating a bar of chocolate. Vox, 20 August 2018, www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/10/18/15995478/chocolate-health-benefits- heart-disease.

Cather Studies. “Willa Cather: A Writer’s Worlds; Vol. 8 of Cather Studies.” University of Nebraska Press, 2010.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. “The True History of Chocolate.” Thames & Hudson, 28 June 2013.

Jacobson, Sean. “”Chocolate is a Fighting Food!” – Chocolate bars in the Second World War.” National Museum of American History (Behring Center), 24 October 2016, https://americanhistory.si.edu/blog/chocolate-bars-second-world-war

Jefferson, Thomas. Extract of letter to John Adams. Massachusetts Historical Society of Boston, 27 Nov. 1785, tjrs.monticello.org/letter/1789

Laiskonis, Michael. “In Search of Chocolate in Old New York City.” Institute of Culinary Education, 19 August 2016, www.ice.edu/blog/search-chocolate-old-new-york

Mancerina dish from the Royal Factory of Alcora. Museo Nacional de Ceramica y Artes, 18th century, artsandculture.google.com/asset/mancerina-dish-from-the-royal-factory-of-alcora/lwF_ttm8ODc2Sg.  

Mars, Inc. and National Geographic Partners. “Great Moments in World History: Global Stories Where Chocolate Sparked Discovery, Innovation, and Imagination.” Mars, 2018, www.nationalgeographic.com/pdf/chocolate-ed-guide.pdf

Martin, Carla D., and Kathryn E. Sampeck. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.bu, DoI: 10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37

Opossum God Carrying Rain God. The Possomery, members.peak.org/~jeremy/possomery/

United States Department of Agriculture. “Chocolate, dark, 45- 59% cacao solids.” 1 April 2019, fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170271/nutrients

Wilbur, Lawrence. “Nestlé’s advertisement; “Chocolate is a fighting food.”.” World War II Advertisements – 1942. WCSU Archives, 9 July 2019, archives.library.wcsu.edu/omeka/items/show/4576

Chocolate Consumption and Societal Divides

Chocolate in Europe, brought to Spain originally from Mesoamerica in the 1500s, has amassed into a staple of almost everyone’s diet today. However, the history of chocolate consumption and its social constructs have expanded and changed over the centuries since chocolate’s first venture into Europe. Chocolate began as a drink, medicine, and eventually a snack “among the white-skinned, perfumed, bewigged, overdressed royalty and nobility of Europe” (Coe and Coe, 125). However, as time went on, and the price and availability of chocolate began to expand to beyond the upper circles of Europe, the elitism that surrounded chocolate still existed. Even today, when majority of people consume chocolate—often times in similar forms, for example as a bar or hot beverage—there still is a separation between chocolate for commoners and chocolate for the wealthy. How come even though there have been drastic consumption changes over the centuries, in quantity and form, there is still a strong social tension amongst different types of chocolate? By looking at the history of chocolate, it will become clearer that chocolate has always had societal divisions and it is merely impossible to fully break away from those constructs that are inherent to chocolate.

Chocolate for European Elites

In order to understand how consumption in Europe has and has not changed over the centuries, it is important to start at the beginning of chocolate in Europe. Once chocolate was brought over to Europe through Spain during the Renaissance, it was immediately viewed as for elites only— “it was in Baroque palaces and mansions of the wealthy and powerful that it was elaborated and consumed” (Coe and Coe, 125). While Spaniards more or less “stripped [the chocolate beverage] of the spiritual meaning” attached to it by the Aztec and Maya, they did start by consuming the beverage as a drug or medicine for healing (Coe and Coe, 126). This consumption was often matched with mix-ins custom to Spain and Europe, such as “atole and sugar” for a colder drink or “honey and hot water” for a more soothing hot beverage (Coe and Coe, 134).

However, this beverage was still strictly for the elites of Europe even once it started to spread throughout the continent. As time progressed, the royals started to create more recipes of chocolate beverages to be served to special guest, with a princess in 1679 recalling: “There was iced chocolate, another hot, and another with Milk and Eggs; one took it with a biscuit…besides this, they take it with so much pepper and so many spices” (Coe and Coe, 136). With the spread of popularity amongst chocolate beverages, there also were technical advances to enhance the experience. For example, the Spanish royals invented mancerina, a decorative saucer and small plate that helped avoid spills on fancy clothing (Coe and Coe, 134-5).

Spanish porcelain mancerina used by royalty to avoid spilling their chocolate beverages. The cocoa drink would be placed in the middle ring of the mancerina.

Sugar Becomes a Chocolate Equalizer

Skipping ahead, with the addition of sugar mass production, chocolate became a consumable good for almost everyone around Europe and the world, breaking down many original societal barriers. During the early 1800s, the British “national consumption [of sugar] was about 300 million pounds per year,” rising to over a billion pounds in 1852 as prices continued to drop (Mintz, 143). The addition of sugar allowed for chocolate to more easily become mass produced, creating more affordability and accessibility throughout Europe. By 1856, “sugar consumption was forty times higher than it had been only 150 years earlier,” allowing for everyone—wealthy and poor alike—to enjoy such treats in different forms (Mintz, 143).

1885 Cadbury advertisement markets towards the “public,” claiming their cocoa is “exhilarating, comforting, and sustaining” as well as “guaranteed absolutely pure.”

Sugar was a major success in creating access to chocolate throughout history, giving way for major chocolate companies such as Lindt and Cadbury to become the “producers of majority of the world’s chocolate” (Martin and Sampeck, 49). For the first time in history, chocolate was being consumed in similar forms at similar price points by both the wealthy and poor because of these large manufactures—arguably stripping away many societal differences inherent to chocolate by creating a consistent form of chocolate everyone could enjoy. However, as the prices decreased, the quality of chocolate also decreased, with many large manufacturers “even cutting out…the substance that gives quality to superior chocolates: cacao butter” (Coe and Coe, 257). As lower quality chocolate created by major companies became a staple of poorer and working-class citizens, the elites often would opt to fly to specific regions of Europe—such as Switzerland or Belgium—to indulge in their high-quality chocolate from chocolatiers (Coe and Coe, 258). Therefore, even though sugar allowed for some narrowing of the social constructs surrounding chocolate, there was still a market for superior forms that are only accessible for a wealthier audience.

Still a Divide with Chocolate Today

Today, chocolate still holds of great importance to many peoples’ lives, with chocolate consumptions estimates for 2018/2019 at 7.7 million tons globally (“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide,” Statista). However, even with the advances in chocolate consumption over the many centuries, there are still similar societal constraints around chocolate. While the different forms of chocolate are often times similar amongst upper and lower classes—ranging from hot beverages or bars to baked goods—the quality and price ranges can heavily vary, instilling a separation and exclusivity in societal groups that existed even in the 1500s when chocolate was introduced to Europe. For example, the range in quality of chocolate products is vast: there exist fair trade chocolate sourced in more humane manners, specific species of cacao pods with better characteristics and richer flavors, granulated texture differences, and even different percentages of cacao in chocolate mixtures. One can go to a deluxe chocolatier shop somewhere in Switzerland or Belgium and purchase extreme, rare examples of certain types of chocolate—frequently at higher prices. However, these levels of chocolate are often inaccessible to others of not a higher social class because they require having more money and the ability to reach the areas where superior-quality chocolate is created—such as expensive regions in Switzerland. For these other social groups, the desire for chocolate could still be just as strong, but the more realistic options are to purchase mass-produced chocolate, such as Hershey’s chocolate bars or M&Ms, that are often associated with quick, convenient snacks that are affordable.

This social distinction around chocolate exists even in Harvard Square today, where one could purchase a quality, single source hot chocolate at L.A. Burdick from specific locations such as Ecuador (with an “earthy finish”) or Madagascar (with “fruity notes”) at a starting price of $5.50 (“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick). On the other hand, one could instead go to CVS in Harvard Square and purchase a 10 pack of Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix for $2.79, averaging $0.28 per serving (“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS). There is clearly an audience for both choices, but the more accessible version is at CVS because it is drastically more affordable and easily accessible at any CVS around the world, while L.A. Burdick is a specialty chocolate shop with a much higher price point and only a few locations. So even though there have been major advances in chocolate and the levels of consumption over the last few centuries—including the expansion of different forms of consumptions and the spread of accessibility beyond the upper-class nobilities—there still persists a divide when it comes to chocolate today.

Based on the history of chocolate, it seems unlikely that societal constructs around chocolate will ever completely disappear because there will always be a market for better quality, more elaborate chocolate consumption as well as affordable, accessible chocolate. However, as the interest in “fine flavor” chocolate continues to grow in more recent decades, then more “small-batch chocolate companies” will begin to come around “with a heavy focus on batch production, flavor, quality, and perceived ethical sourcing of raw ingredients,” creating more access and maybe eventually lower prices of higher quality product for everyone to enjoy (Martin and Sampeck, 54). While the future is uncertain, one steadfast is that chocolate will still be present in most peoples’ lives because of its unifying, joyous, cherished qualities that impact people on a daily basis—no matter one’s social rank.

Works Cited

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

“Consumption of Chocolate Worldwide, 2012/13-2018/19 | Statistic.” Statista, Statista, Nov. 2015, http://www.statista.com/statistics/238849/global-chocolate-consumption/.

Martin, Carla D., and Sampeck, Kathryn E. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” Socio.hu, no. special issue 3, 2016, pp. 37–60., doi:10.18030/socio.hu.2015en.37.

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

“Single Source Drinking Chocolate.” L.A. Burdick Handmade Chocolate, http://www.burdickchocolate.com/DrinkingChocolate/single-source-drinking-chocolate.aspx.

“Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix.” CVS, http://www.cvs.com/shop/swiss-miss-milk-chocolate-flavor-hot-cocoa-mix-prodid-828715?skuid=828715.

Multimedia Sources

Anonymous, Cadbury’s Cocoa advert with rower 1885. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cadbury%27s_Cocoa_advert_with_rower_1885.jpg. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Anonymous, Interior of a London Coffee-house, 17th century. Wikimedia Commons, 6 August 2013, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Interior_of_a_London_Coffee-house,_17th_century.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Daderot. Talavera mancerina (chocolate cup holder), ceramic – Museo Nacional de Artes Decorativas – Madrid, Spain. Wikimedia Commons, 10 October 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Talavera_mancerina_(chocolate_cup_holder),ceramicMuseo_Nacional_de_Artes_DecorativasMadrid,_Spain-_DSC08143.JPG. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Lam, Willis. Swiss Miss Simply Cocoa. Flickr, 2 December 2014, https://www.flickr.com/photos/85567416@N03/15826425118/in/photolist-q7wyNA-4Vi3xj-2c1quQF-bAR6UB-5KXJTX-4uvVPN-e14Lxw-8Wa8AZ-nLpJvi-Cbm1VF-dqASpX-2ampJbb-Rd9TCh-2bZA3Mz-2bZ2eHi-RetAk7-7jSCz3-8h4wTf-bAqsAk-LuMes-2dotp4v-oRr31-axSjhw-98qkXu-ihJDzj-227rKBA-i2LSJm-iupoqe-5ro6Ux-HxgKn6-7qkecG-8WYapy-2ch8p7d-PkuWzx-hjPRMw-4m3SWK-2dfdft2-2cggZSf-PzRfGR-2chxsFj-2cg2pA7-Rft18y-PBbapT-PASK2P-3k8YWU-CDyBre-2dhZJb5-2diX3ZC-ReRqrL-9Sp3i. Accessed 11 March 2019.

Phelan, John. L A Burdick Chocolate, Walpole NH. Wikimedia Commons, 26 April 2014, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:L_A_Burdick_Chocolate,_Walpole_NH.jpg. Accessed 11 March 2019.

The Mancerina and Chocolate’s Place in Baroque Europe

The history of chocolate’s movement from the New World of Mesoamerica to the Old World of Europe is as much about the drink itself as it is about the customs surrounding it. When European colonial powers brought chocolate back to their home county  to be consumed by the elite, they took the preferred mode of consumption (liquid), the temperature (warm), and process of finishing (foaming). One thing they did innovate with, however, was the vessels that they consumed chocolate with.

In colonial Mexico and South America, chocolate was consumed as the people in Mesoamerica had done: with a jícara. However, the nobles of colonial Spain wouldn’t be drinking from the hollowed and dried squash vessels as the indigenous people would (Ionescu 41)—they instead updated the jicara to reflect their more elegant tastes. The European version of the jícara was to be made of clay in a Spanish method of potterymaking called mayólica (Gavin 254). These ceramic jícaras served a similar function, however, they still had the unfortunate side effects of being mildly clumsy to drink out of. This would require another innovation.

A classical style gourd jícara


The mancerina had a distinctive shape and two parts – a handle-less silver cup, much like the jícara, and a saucer with a ring in the middle so that the jícara cup could be held in place. While initially the goal was simply to provide a wall on the saucer to “prevent [the cup] from tipping over” (Ionescu 41), eventually these elaborate and beautiful  pieces of silver would grow to look like cups in a wide leaf or the seat of a seashell.

A precious silver seashell mancerina; the ring in the center holds the cup filled with the chocolate beverage

The evolution of this drinking vessel for Europeans, like many processes in the movement of chocolate throughout the 17th century, is convoluted. There isn’t just one true story of why it was created. The who of the matter is relatively agreed upon: the man that created it, the Marques of Mancera, gave the new cup its name. There are two versions of the reasons behind the invention of the mancerina that hint at the different places of esteem chocolate held in Baroque Europe.

A portrait of the Marquez of Mancera, Pedro de Toledo y Leyva

The first story, as put forth by Sophie and Michael Coe, involves an elegant banquet that the Marques of Mancera held at his property in Peru, somewhere between 1639 and 1648 (Gavin 254). As was custom for the time, chocolate was served and consumed by all the nobles in attendance. To his horror, one of the ladies spilled chocolate all over dress from being unable to handle the jicara (Coe and Coe 135). In order to avoid similar mishaps in the future, the Marquez invented the mancerina.

This origin story points to the close associations between class and chocolate drinking in Baroque Europe and the colonies it spawned. These practices, most prevalent in Spain, France and Italy among royal courts and nobles, are detailed throughout Chapter 5 of Coe and Coe.

The second origin story of the mancerina, one which Coe and Coe do not touch on in The True History of Chocolate, involves the Marquez’s health. The Marquez of Mancera was said to suffer from palsy, or a tremor in his hands; that tremor often prevented him from holding the jicara without spilling any chocolate on himself. Thus, the mancerina may have been created to aid the elderly or ill in consuming chocolate for their health. Most of Europe was still subscribing to Galen’s Theory of Humors as healthcare (Coe and Coe 128) at the time chocolate was introduced in the 16th century. As all of their foods had to be classified according to this system of 4 characteristics, chocolate was naturally also brought into the regime. More important than the classification itself is the immediate intimate relationship chocolate and health had. Chocolate was “prescribed” to nobles and people of ill health across Europe; many ladies in French court began to cling to the positive effects so much that they couldn’t get out of bed without their daily dose of chocolate (Coe and Coe 136). The mancerina (or trembleuse in France) made this kind of dosage in bed easier to administer to high-born ladies as well as the invalid.

The history of the mancerina is an important part of the history of chocolate not only because it is a beautiful piece of European art history and innovation, but also because the confusion surrounding its very invention is indicative of the important role chocolate grew to play in Europe. These stories and their reflection on the involvement of chocolate not only in the noble rituals of the high courts of the continent but also the esteemed place it began to held in the European (albeit misguided) system of medicine. These relationships would shape many discussions about chocolate in the centuries to come.

Works Cited

Baird, Ileana Popa, and Christina Ionescu. Eighteenth-century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture. Farnham: Ashgate, 2014. Print.

Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.

Gavin, Robin Farwell., Donna Pierce, and Alfonso Pleguezuelo Hernández. Cerámica Y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican Mayólica. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico, 2003. Print.

Lange, Amanda. “Chocolate Preparation and Early Serving Vessels.” National Museum of American History. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.






“Let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”: The mancerina

Since first reading about the mancerina used in the early 17th century by Europeans for chocolate consumption, I have been enamored of the design and the various origin stories around this historical piece. My interest in this piece is echoed by Christine Jones, author of Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. Jones shares that “small things, sometimes quite ordinary things were deemed remarkable for the unlikely composition of their bodies and how they had been molded, against all odds into such intriguing shapes” (Jones, ix – Acknowledgements).

The structure of the mancerina – usually a ceramic or porcelain (materials varied) saucer with a raised holder in the center to “sit” a cup – is simple, yet innovative. The illustrations only add to the beauty of the design. To me, the mancerina itself, is like an elegant lady, ready to come to life with skirts flared and dance the night away.

It is interesting then, that one of the “origin stories” behind this piece is around ladies indulging in chocolate. The story: the Marqués of Mancera, viceroy of Peru, while strengthening Spain’s military infrastructure within Peru, was also known for hosting tertulias, discussion parties with literary, artistic, or political overtones. It is hypothesized that at one of these events, he observed women of the aristocracy attempting to drink chocolate from regular cups and it spilling down their dresses (Coe and Coe, 135). He noted this challenge and later commissioned the first mancerina. Chocolate first made its appearance in the Spanish courts of Prince Philip in 1544. By the early 17th century, chocolate continued to be a decadent discovery, with access limited to a select few with the means and connections to indulge. In Mesoamerica, it was consumed from clay gourds or jicaras (cups); this did not meet Spanish sensibilities. The materials were common and there were concerns around spilling the beverage and burning one’s skin as well as being unable to drink properly when one was reclined. (Baird and Ionescu, 41-42). The Spanish also added sweeteners to their chocolate, such as sugar, further changing how it was consumed. The mancerina was considered a “New World design” for royalty and the aristocracy to elegantly consume this beverage, with minimal spillage. Moreover, the mancerina was another example of how chocolate was ‘adapted’ to be acceptable to European society.

Mancerina collage
Mancerina collage

The other “origin story” around the creation of the mancerina is based within the namesake himself; Pedro Álvarez de Toledo y Leiva, Marqués of Mancera and viceroy of Peru from 1639-1648. This story tells us that the Marqués suffered from palsy and that a rim was specifically built into his saucer in order to prevent him from spilling the beverage when he picked it up. (Gavin, Pierce and Pleguezuelo, 68).

This is interesting because of the correlation between innovation and health. For the people of Mesoamerica, cacao and chocolate had many healing properties and held a distinguished place for medicinal usage (Lippi, Chocolate in History). Without further information about the Marques, a definitive statement cannot be made that this was one of the reasons that he consumed chocolate. However, with the acknowledgement that some of these medicinal beliefs crossed the Atlantic back to the Spanish, one could infer that along with the prestige he gained from having access to this delicacy, the possibility of chocolate ameliorating some of the effects he suffered from the disease, also influenced his desire for a container to ease his consumption and limit waste.

Title page from Colmenero’s Curioso Tratado de la Naturaleza y Calidad del Chocolate
Title page from Colmenero’s Curioso Tratado de la Naturaleza y Calidad del Chocolate

Finally, shifting perspectives, I share an aside on the mancerina design and its implications on the erasure of Mesoamerican culture; an interesting view provided by Christine Jones in Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. The book is a study of the cultural impacts of porcelain within French society and on French nationalism, though it acknowledges that some designs were adapted from other cultures (e.g. Spain, China) and explores these objects history and usage. Jones notes that:

“Hypotheses about the social purpose of the saucer – to sophisticate and stabilize gourd-style cups for fine ladies – historicize it quaintly, but the story of the mancerina calls out for a more culturally suspicious read. The lexicon of modesty around the new saucer situates it among the technologies brought to the New World to discipline native impropriety, from the corset to Christian baptism. Saved from the instability of Mesoamerican gourds and spared the need for better balance, ladies sipped the drink without fear of indelicacy. But the object of fear here is as much the liquid itself as concern about spilling it. Symbolically, the mancerina mitigated the impertinence of chocolate – a curiously invigorating pleasure deemed a heretical cure. Making native exoticism tame and safe might well sum up Spain’s colonial project, but the fear that inspired such imperial campaigns went beyond the borders of Spain and its Inquisition” (Jones, 125).

Her assertion is provocative, in the possibility that a third “origin story” could exist behind the creation of the mancerina and that this was another way in which Mesoamerican culture was deemed to be inferior, barbarian, and an opportunity for the Mesoamerican people to be saved and shown the path to “civilized humanity”. At least, that is my interpretation of this quote. What is yours?

Regardless of “how” or “why” the mancerina was created; it is noted as a historical artifact that not only highlights European gentrification of chocolate consumption, but also the status of chocolate – a delicacy so exotic that it deserved the creation of its own container to ease and accentuate one’s drinking experience.


Baird, Ileana and Ionescu, Christina. Eighteenth-Century Thing Theory in a Global Context: From Consumerism to Celebrity Culture. Ashgate Publishing Company, Surrey. 2013. Print.

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

Disney Songs. “Beauty and the Beast – Be our Guest.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 09 December 2008. Web. 20 February 2015.

Gavin, Robin Farwell, Pierce, Donna, and Pleguezuelo, Alfonso.  Cerámica Y Cultura: The Story of Spanish and Mexican Mayólica. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 2003. Print.

Jones, Christine. Shapely Bodies: The Image of Porcelain in Eighteenth-Century France. University of Delaware Press, Newark. 2013. Print.

Lippi, Donnatella. “Chocolate in History: Food, Medicine, Medi-Food” National Institute of Health, Journal – Nutrients (2013): n. pag. Web. 20 February 2015. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3708337/