DIA Shop Blog
Coffee, tea and chocolate were strongly associated with 18th-century Europe as the fashionable beverages of the day, yet none of the plants required for their preparation were native to the continent. Coffee arrived from Africa and the Middle East, tea from Asia, and chocolate from the Americas.
The current exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Bitter|Sweet: Coffee, Tea & Chocolate incorporates all five senses to tell the story of how these 'new hot drinks' appeared on European tables beginning the in late 16th century, causing a near revolution in drinking habits, social customs and tastes, as well as an insatiable demand for specialized vessels, such as coffeepots, tea canisters and chocolate pots.
In addition to seeing art, you can touch certain displays, allowing you to 'feel' the difference between porcelain and china, for example. Another display allows you to 'sniff' the delightful aroma of coffee. But, of all the sensory experiences, you may guess which has been the favorite for the majority of visitors. It is the 'tasting station', of course. Just before the exhibit comes to an end, visitors are invited to step up to the tasting station and sip small samples of two warming elixirs. One, an 18th Century French Hot Chocolate and the other, an Aztec Hot Chocolate.
The feedback from visitors has been wonderful, with guests debating the merits of one recipe over the other. In my opinion, both drinks are absolutely delicious! The Aztec recipe contains a small amount of chili pepper, giving it a bit if a kick; the French recipe utilizes cinnamon, instead, making its spice level also noticeable, but with a different quality. Complex, interesting, and delectable.
The main ingredient in each recipe is the Ecuadorian Drinking Chocolate, available in the Museum Shop, in-store and online. Visitors may also pick up a recipe card from the shop or download the recipes here.
Adapted for the modern cook by exhibition curator Yao-Fen You, the recipes can be followed precisely or you use the recipes as a starting point from which to develop your own signature hot drink.
(Image credit: "Un cavallier, et une dame beuvant du chocolat," Robert Bonnart, 1690-1710, hand-colored engraving faced on reverse with fabrics. The Morgan Library & Museum, New York)
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