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Chocolate and Tea

Americans drank hot beverages made from ingredients grown thousands of miles away—cacao beans and sugar from the Caribbean or South America and tea leaves shipped from China or India. They purchased special utensils to enjoy the ritual of hot chocolate at breakfast, or afternoon and evening tea. These drinks provided nourishment as well as opportunities for family and friends to gather around the cup.

Jean-Étienne Liotard, The Breakfast, mid-1700s

Jean-Étienne Liotard, The Breakfast, mid-1700s

Courtesy of bpk, Berlin / Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen – Alte Pinakothek, Munich / Art Resource, NY

Screenshot of the Have a Cup interactive displayTrace the cultivation, trade, purchase, and consumption of four key drinks from the Merchant Era: tea, chocolate, water, and whiskey. Click on the screenshot above to open the interactive display in a new window.

Chocolate pot, mid-1700s

Chocolate cup and saucer, 1800–1815

Johann Eckstein, The Samels Family, 1788

Johann Eckstein, The Samels Family, 1788

Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Tea bowl and saucer, 1820–1840

Would you like to learn more about colonial beverages and the production of chocolate in the Merchant Era? You can start your research with these selected chapters from Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage (2009), edited by Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro:

Nation of Nowhere: Jewish Role in Colonial American Chocolate History, by Celia D. Shapiro

Chocolate Preparation and Serving Vessels in Early North America, by Amanda Lange

Chocolate and Other Colonial Beverages, by Frank Clark

Chocolate Production and Uses in 17th and 18th Century North America, by James F. Gay

From Stone Metates to Steel Mills: The Evolution of Chocolate Manufacturing, by Rodney Snyder, Bradley Foliart Olsen, and Laura Pallas Brindle