Join Museum Intern, Shannon, as she tells you about her
favourite artifact, a Victorian Cocoa Set.
Drinking chocolate, was first introduced to Western Europe by the Spainiards in the 17th Century. Hernán Cortés, a Spanish Conquistador is credited with bringing the delicious drink to Europe after learning about it from the Aztecs in 1519.
The process for making drinking chocolate involves melting ground cacao beans in hot water, adding sugar, milk and spices and then frothing the mixture with a stirring stick . It was necessary to frequently stir the chocolate to more evenly distribute the chocolate through the beverage and prevent a thick chocolate sediment on the bottom of the pot.
In the 1600s, French Aristocracy, led by King Louis XIII and Queen Anne were quite fond of drinking cocoa. This resulted in the development of very elaborate chocolate pots and drinking sets. The need to keep the drink well blended resulted in the design of a tall, slender pot that could best accommodate a molinet or stirring stick. By the 1700s drinking chocolate had become a morning staple for those that could afford the luxury.
The industrial revolution resulted in faster and cheaper methods to prepare chocolate and by the 1850s cocoa powder, in which the cocoa fat has been extracted, was readily available. Cocoa powder was much less expensive, making hot chocolate a much more affordable drink for all to enjoy. Hot cocoa, made from cocao powder did not require constant stirring and the use of a molinet was no longer necessary.
Cocoa remained popular during the Victorian era (1837-1901). Porcelain cocoa sets such as the one in Glanmore’s collection were particularly popular in the 1880s and 1890s. Cocoa was considered a healthy alternative to tea and coffee. It was often served at breakfast for both children and adults.
This particular cocoa set belonged to the Cooke family, who were long-time Belleville residents. Jennie McCreary (b. 1865) married Lewis Cooke in 1883. They probably acquired the set sometime after their marriage. Their daughter Queenie Cooke recalls drinking hot cocoa from the set as a child in the early 1900s. It was made in Germany, and features a slim tall pitcher with lid, as well as four very small cups and saucers. They are decorated with pink and yellow roses and leaves with a green and gold border.
You can learn more about the history of chocolate in CANADA by visiting the Heritage Chocolate.
Heritage Chocolate products are produced in small batches using historic recipes.
Does all this talk about chocolate and cocoa tempt you to try some out for yourself? If so, you are in luck! Heritage Chocolate Bars and Drinking Chocolate, made in small batches with traditional dark chocolate and spices are both available for purchase in the gift shop at Glanmore National Historic Site.
About the Author
Melissa Wakeling has a Bachelor of Arts from Trent University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Museum Management and Curatorship from Fleming College. Melissa works as Education and Marketing Coordinator at Glanmore National Historic Site in Belleville, Ontario.
Glanmore National Historic Site
257 Bridge Street East
Hours of Operation
Closed Mondays & Holidays
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June – August
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Children (5-12) $3.50
Children Under 5 free