Chocolate serving equipment
All of the objects you see in the Chocolate Room at Hampton Court Palace have been meticulously researched and re-created by craftspeople using traditional materials and methods.
We have a record of six chocolate frames in the palace from an inventory in 1721.
At first we had no idea what a chocolate ‘frame’ was! After a lot of research we discovered that it was indeed a frame of sorts – a silver saucer with a delicate silver scaffold built in. A china cup sat in the centre and the scaffold would have prevented the cups from falling off the saucers.
Chocolate was considered to be a very stimulating drink because it causes an endorphin and sugar rush. As ladies were not used to this excitement, it was said that their hands would shake. The frames were to stop the chocolate spilling.
A chocolate cup is the basic item for serving chocolate. It can take different forms: delicate Meissen porcelain, a white tin glaze, or a simple blue and white design, with or without a handle. A cup without a handle would be used with a chocolate frame.
Our re-created cups are based on fragments discovered in an excavation of the Hampton Court moat in 1910 and compared to surviving cups in museums. A curled cup handle was found as well as blue and white china fragments. These match up with blue and white chocolate cups that are noted in the 18th century inventory of Kensington Palace. The patterns you see on the cups are all copied from the fragments of real cups discovered here at Hampton Court.
Sweetmeats were often served with drinking chocolate. Treats such as custard or a cream would have been served in a special sweetmeat or syllabub glass. Piles of food were often served on tazzas.
There are a couple of chocolate pots described in the palace from an inventory of 1721.
Chocolate pots are very similar to coffee pots and can easily be confused. The most notable difference is a second hinged lid on top of the lid to insert the molinet or whisk.
Chocolate pots for the king would have been silver or even gold. Our reproductions are made from pewter and follow an example made in 1709 by Royal Goldsmith Benjamin Pyne.
The molinet is a wooden, ridged whisk with a long handle that is unique to chocolate making. It is inserted into a chocolate pot and pushed through the top lid. The chocolate maker would have given the chocolate a final whisk before serving to the king.