Hand Painted Chocolate Cup with Lid and Saucer | Photo: Folkestone Museum

Submitted to the Folkestone Herald

An exquisite porcelain cup, used to drink hot chocolate by wealthy Victorians, is the Folkestone Museum Artifact of the Month (accession number: F114a to c).

Decorated with hand-painted floral designs and delicate silverwork, the mug has a lid to keep the chocolate warm and a saucer to prevent spills.

Heritage Support Manager Dr Alison Moore explains that chocolate has a long history, dating back to the Aztec civilization of South America.

Cocoa beans were used as currency for commodities, as well as a drink during cultural festivals.

With the conquest of the Aztecs by the Spanish conquistadors in the early 15th century, the secret of chocolate was brought back to Spain.

It was in Spain that chocolate was first drunk hot (the Aztecs preferred it cold and spiced with chillies).

Chocolate reached the rest of Europe in the 17th century, becoming the go-to drink for the upper classes and intelligentsia of the time.

The chocolate mug in the collection of the Folkestone Museum dates from the mid-19th century, a time when chocolate was still a drink for the wealthy.

The industrial revolution encouraged the development of chocolate consumption in a greater variety of mediums and different budgets.

The first chocolate bars were produced by JS Fry and Sons of Bristol in 1847, followed closely by Cadbury in 1849.

In 1876 milk chocolate was introduced, having been invented in Switzerland with the addition of cocoa butter which made it easy to shape the bars and melt in the mouth.

Some of the earliest chocolate bars still sold today include Fry’s Chocolate Cream (1866), Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (1905), and Fry’s Turkish Delight (1914).

It is estimated that Britain consumes around 660,000 tonnes of chocolate a year, which equates to three bars per person per week.

To find out more about the Folkestone Museum collections, click here.

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