Any visitors to antiques shows, shops or auctions may have encountered the terms “mocha” or “mochaware” attached to vibrant and sometimes slightly offbeat-looking ceramics. To most of us in this coffee-driven world, the word mocha is a flavor or perhaps a color, not a bowl with a crazy spotted pattern or a cup that appears to have seaweed crawling up its side.
Right now at the HeritageCenter we have several pieces of our mochaware on exhibit, but what is it? Mocha is defined as a type of English-made decorated earthenware that was produced and imported to the United States from the late 18th century to the late 19th. The term “mocha” specifically relates to the seaweed type designs that resembled the patterns occurring naturally on mocha stone, another name for moss agate. Today all sorts of decorated earthenware are put under this umbrella term – from brightly banded vessels that have been turned on a lathe to undulating earthworm curlicues and spots called cats’ eyes.
Mochaware enjoyed at least some popularity among our Schwenkfelders and other Pennsylvania Germans, although it is difficult to gauge how much due to the lack of surviving pieces with good family histories. Visit our Time to Eat exhibit to view some excellent examples, then go treat yourself to a mocha latte.
Candace Kintzer Perry, Curator of Collections