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Hot Chocolate for a Rainy Day

Watching the rain from Tropical Storm Niala splattering on my windows brings the coziness of curling up with a good book and hot chocolate to my mind. Hot chocolate is more than a satisfying warm drink filled with legal antioxidants and illegal sugar. It conjures up exotic origins, leisurely indulgence, and beautiful serving utensils.

The eighteenth century Limoges chocolate pot shown here demonstrates sheer elegance and vulnerable fragility. Look closely. There are several characteristics that distinguish a chocolate pot from a tea or coffee pot. Tea and coffee are made by hot water infusions. Not so drinking chocolate. To make hot chocolate, one had to melt the chocolate in the hot water before adding sugar, milk and spices. The mixture then had to be frothed with a stirring stick, called a molinet.

The chocolate pot accommodated the process. Taller than a tea pot, but shorter than a coffee pot with a stubby spout and lacking an internal mesh, chocolate pots allowed all the goodness to be poured into the matching cup. Before pouring, the mixture was stirred with the molinet so the chocolate maintained its froth. This required a small hole in the lid for insertion of the molinet.

Silver Coffee Pot. Photo by Valerie McGllinchey. Victory & Albert Museum. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.

Chocolate, tea, and coffee all arrived in Europe at about the same time. Each required its own separate dishes. All of them made from the finest materials, including porcelain, copper, and silver. This silver chocolate pot shows the distinctions of a chocolate pot more clearly. The lid is hinged. The opening for the molinet is in the front. The handle is on the right side for pouring (not the back), and the spout is stubbier.

Morning Chocolate by Pietro Longhi.

Chocolate could be drunk any time one wished leisure and conversation, but was especially popular just before bed or first thing in the morning. This eighteenth century painting by Pietro Longhi depicts a lady flanked by visitors, all about to have morning chocolate. It appears the servant brought an extra cup.

White’s Chocolate House. c. 1708.

Coffee was also drunk in public, most often at so-called Chocolate Houses of which White’s of London was one of the most fashionable as well as having a reputation for decadence, debauchery, and unrestrained gaming. Chocolate was touted as an aphrodisiac with the ability to reverse aging.

Hmmm…. must be the antioxidants.

I’m writing on a dark and rainy Sunday. Hopefully, by the time you read this blog, the storm will be over. In the meantime, I’m going to get out the cocoa powder and milk.

Featured Image: Limoge Chocolate Pot. Photo by PetitPoulailler. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.

The paintings Morning Chocolate and White’s Chocolate House are both in the Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

Liquid Gold: The History of Chocolate. History Cooperative. Here.

Barbara Bowman. Chocolate Pots. Gourmet Sleuth. Here.

Matthew Green. Surprising History of London’s Lost Chocolate Houses. The Telegraph. Dec. 13, 2013. Here.

Jess Righthand. A Brief History of the Chocolate Pot. Feb. 13, 2015. Here.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright holds the doctoral degree in history and taught women’s and global history at the University of Hawai`i. Sandra travels for her research, most recently to Salem, Massachusetts, the setting of her new Salem Stories series. She also enjoys traveling for new experiences. Recent trips include Antarctica and a river cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel.

 Sandra particularly likes writing about strong women who make a difference. She lives in Hilo, Hawai`i with her family and writes a blog relating to history, travel, and the idiosyncrasies of life.


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