This post will introduce material culture related to the consumption of hot beverages at the château Saint-Louis and the intendant's palace in the eighteenth century. Such objects- armorial silver coffeepots, Chinese porcelain cups, Asian lacquer trays- speak as much to the importance of fashion and the display of rank as the exotic tea, coffee, and chocolate did. Despite the remote geography of Québec, colonial officials such as the governor-general and intendant of New France inhabited a world of goods that connected them to the allure of the Far East. As Asian goods began to flood the market, French and other European craftsmen reinvented Asian forms and traditions in material culture and the decorative arts- a phenomenon known as Chinoiserie- that also came to Canada.
Served hot with water or milk, coffee first became popular in France in the late seventeenth century and could also be found in period cookbooks for iced desserts. A recipe for coffee-flavored gaufres (waffles) can even be found in the 1750s edition of Les soupers de la cour by the Parisian chef Menon. The kitchens at the château Saint-Louis and the intendant's palace included dozens of tools- molds, kettles, and others- that could have been used for the confection of such dishes and drinks.
In New France, coffee and chocolate were the preferred beverages. Tea never appears to have enjoyed the same popularity, although it does appear in the records. Colonial estate and retail inventories record the presence of coffee and chocolate, as well as necessary equipage, as early as 1700. Louis Franquet, a French envoy to Canada, recorded an experience with coffee among the colonial elite in the 1750s. Penned on 10 February 1753, he described a dinner at Trois-Rivières, the third largest settlement after Québec and Montréal, where Madame Pierre-François de Rigaud (Governor-General Pierre de Rigaud's sister-in-law and a niece to his wife Jeanne-Charlotte) received him. Sick and consigned to her bed, she was greeted by her guests in her chamber, where the assembled company enjoyed conversation and coffee with their hostess after the main meal.
Anything from the Far East could be described as coming from the Indies (les Indes), and it is possible that the Chinese porcelain cup excavated at the château sat upon Philippe de Rigaud's cabaret des Indes and also arrived in Canada or France aboard a Compagnie des Indes vessel. The Company had a presence in Canada as early as the 1720s, with offices in Québec and Montréal that enabled it to oversee the fur trade. I had the chance to visit its 1750s office, the château Ramezay, in Montréal.
In addition to Asian models meant for the export trade, it is possible that Dupuy owned a French-made cabaret; the Dictionnaire universel and Blegny relate how metropolitan craftsmen such as cabinetmakers also created cabarets in Paris with an imitation varnish. An ebonized pearwood armoire used by Dupuy as a cabaret à café "engraved like Chinese examples" was possibly the work of such Parisian artisans. Dupuy also owned a coffeepot, two sugar bowls, and twenty-three spoons, all in silver. A note at the end of the inventory mentions one candlestick without engraved arms, hinting that most if not all of Dupuy's silver bore his arms or crest.
With Philippe de Rigaud's two-year sojourn to France in the mid-1710s and Claude-Thomas Dupuy's arrival in Canada directly from Paris in 1726, it is more than likely that their Chinese and chinoiserie furnishings were purchased in Paris.
In addition to listing furniture and decorative objects, Pierre de Rigaud's 1771 claim for property stolen from the château Saint-Louis in 1759 included an account of provisions and supplies for the governor's table. In terms of beverages, Pierre's wine cellar held an impressive 32 barrels of red wine from Bordeaux, 5 barrels of white wine, 500 bottles of Champagne, 300 bottles of Malaga wine, 50 bottles of "Island liquors" (liqueurs des îles, probably rum), 10 quarts of brandy, and 320 bottles of other assorted wines and liquors.
Pierre de Rigaud was also well-stocked with supplies for making another spirited and exotic drink: coffee. Found among hams and candles were 180 pounds of Moka coffee and 300 pounds of coffee from Martinique, a Caribbean island still a part of France today.
Whether these objects were used in the private comfort of a bedchamber or the splendor of a salle de compagnie, they enabled their users to conduct themselves in a refined and genteel manner as well as participate in the fashion for imported Asian wares. Despite the distance between Canada and France, aristocratic ritual and display were alive and well at the homes of the colony's governor-general and intendant, notably atop Asian lacquer cabarets and inside Chinese porcelain tea, coffee, and chocolate cups.