I have recently come across several inventories that tell me that in the kitchen are to be found a coffee pot and a chocolate pot, as well as the tea kettle. I have tea pots and coffee pots in my own kitchen, but what is the difference between a coffee pot and a chocolate pot?
Well, it seems each pot is designed to increase the flavour and improve the delivery of the particular drink they contain.
Tea pots tend to be short and bulbous, thus allowing more space for the tea leaves to move in the pot, promoting the flavour of the tea leaves in the water. Tea arrived in the UK in the 17th century, and was made in pots that at the time were indistinguishable from a wine ewer. In 1694 the British East India Company directed that teapots made for them in China must have “a grate… before the spout”. This was in essence a small sieve to strain out the tea leaves when the tea was poured. The spout of a tea pot is always in the centre of the pot, and is generally short in length, presumably to make it easier to clear out those tea leaves that escape the strainer and clog up the spout.
Coffee pots are more slender than tea pots, to help the heat stay in the brew. The spout of a coffee pot is usually at the bottom of the pot, which also helps the liquid to retain its heat. The pot has a long spout, which makes pouring the dark liquid more easily controlled, and less likely to splash the fine clothing of the lady of the house. Coffee pots sometimes share the ‘grate’/ strainer of the tea pot at the entry to the spout.
Chocolate, as it was originally made, was a more labour intensive operation that either tea or coffee making. First the cocoa beans are roasted, shelled and crushed in a large mixing bowl. The crushed cocoa beans are then transferred to a heated grinding stone, where using a rolling pin the beans are ground until they melt, and the liquid is poured into a container where spices, and at a later date sugar, are added.
The chocolate was harder to dissolve, and would settle to the bottom, and needed to be stirred, or frothed up, before pouring into the drinking cup. For this reason chocolate pots tend to be tall and straight and the lid has a hole in it, or a removable finial, so that a swizzle stick (or molinet) can be inserted, which would be frequently turned to keep the chocolate well mixed. The spout of a chocolate pot tends to be close to the top of the pot (though not always), and it can be quite wide, to allow the unimpeded pouring of the frothy loveliness that is a cup of real hot chocolate. In the 17th and 18th centuries chocolate pots were mostly made of silver or porcelain, two valuable materials. Chocolate was a rare commodity, exotic and expensive, and so was associated with luxury and was delivered in a suitably luxurious pot.