This small cup was made in the north of England in the 1780s. Chocolate originally comes from the Americas. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish, arriving in England in the 1600s. By the 1800s chocolate was a fashionable, but expensive drink. It was often drunk by ladies, especially at breakfast. The new drink needed new wares to serve it in and the English potteries met the demand with chocolate cups and pots especially designed for the fashionable table.
The cup is made from a form of earthenware known as pearlware. Pearlware was one of the new thinner, finer materials developed in the English potteries to rival the Chinese porcelain which was being imported during the period. This cup is painted with oriental figures in bright enamel colours in direct imitation of its Chinese competition.
This cup was once in the collection of Arthur Hurst of York, a great collector and authority on European ceramics. After his death in 1940 many museums benefitted from his bequests including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum.