Primary Source of the Month
right: Reproduction Chocolate Pot, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
left: Chocolate Pot, circa 1750-1800
Chocolate in the eighteenth century was commonly consumed as a hot drink served from a vessel called a chocolate pot. Eighteenth-century chocolate pots look very similar to coffeepots of the era. Both kinds of pot often have the spout at right-angles to the handle, and were generally tall, with a wider base and a narrower top. Some had straight sides, while others curved upwards, and there is variation in the length of spouts. Chocolate and coffee pots could be made of copper, like these examples, or of pewter or earthenware. Although these examples are more utilitarian, some pots were very decorative.
Usually, the only difference between a chocolate pot and a coffee pot from this period is the presence of a stirring rod. This rod, commonly called a "chocolate mill," fits down through a circular hole in the top of the lid. A decorative finial covers the hole when the mill is not in use. Chocolate mills usually consist of a turned wooden handle with wood or metal pieces attached to one end.
John Worlidge described in 1675 the preparation of chocolate and the necessary role played by the mill: "[Some] boil it [the chocolate 'sliced or scraped fine'] in water and sugar; others mix half water and half milk and boil it, then add powdered chocolate to it and boil them together; others add wine and water. Be sure whilst it is boiling to keep it stirring, and when it is off the fire, whir it with your hand mill. That is, it must be mixed in a deep pot of Tin, copper or stone, with a cover with a hole in the middle of it, for the handle of the mill to come out at, or without a cover. The mill is only a knop at the end of a slender handle or stick, turned in a turner's lathe, and cut in notches, or rough at the end. They are sold at turners for that purpose. This being whirled between your hands, whilst the pot is over the fire, and the rough end in the liquor causes an equal mixture of the liquor with the chocolate and raises a head of froth over it. Then pour it out for use in small dishes for that purpose. You must add a convenient quantity of sugar to the mixture." (G. Bernard Hughes, "Silver Pots for Chocolate," Country Life 125 (October 20, 1960): 856-57.)
This procedure had changed very little when Elizabeth Raffald, in her Experienced English Housekeeper (London, 1769), wrote "Scrape four ounces of chocolate and pour a quart of boiling water upon it, mill it well with a chocolate mill, and sweeten it to your taste, give it a boil and let it stand all night, then mill it again very well, boil it two minutes, then mill it till it will leave a froth upon the top of your cups."
Adapted from John D. Davis, English Silver at Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virg.: 1976).