Back in January 2021 I interviewed Cuna De Piedra’s co-founder Enrique Perez. If you haven’t watched it please do! It provides great information on the company and Mexico's role in the history of cacao.
Although I have heard and read about Mexican drinking chocolate, it wasn’t until this interview that a desire was kindled in me to connect with the historical relevance of drinking chocolate. Thus I was intrigued to experience it the way it was made for hundreds of years.
Thanks to the Cuna De Piedra team I was able to acquire their molinillo set that comes with their molinillo and three drinking chocolates. Admittedly, my initial focus was on their drinking chocolate. Yet, I came to realize that you can’t talk about it or fully enjoy the experience without focusing on the molinillo itself. So, let’s turn the spotlight on to the molinillo and give it the attention it deserves!
Let’s start with letting Cuna De Piedra answer the question, “What is a molinillo?”
The Molinillo is a kitchen utensil used in Mexico to whisk chocolate since pre-Hispanic times. There is evidence in codices explaining that the presence of foam in drinks was a characteristic that had spiritual meaning and this "food of the gods" was reserved only for the privileged class.
Today, chocolate is for everyone, and the molinillo is an object that is still produced and found in the homes of Mexicans.
Now that the electric frother has become a common kitchen appliance some may view the molinillo as an antiquated Mexican kitchen utensil that no longer has much purpose. So, is it better to stick with tradition or move in the direction of innovation?
Upon reflecting on the question, I couldn’t help but think that it isn’t an issue of either/or, as they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. They each have their unique benefits and can serve as equal partners rather than enemies. Traditions help to define our distinct identity and provide the foundation from which we can build. Innovation is the process of building and remaining flexible in order to grow with conditions and needs that are in constant flux.
I think Cuna De Piedra found a way to do just that. Their modern interpretation of the molinillo pays tribute to the roots of their Mexican heritage while also being a functional piece of art.
Cuna De Piedra’s site notes:
For the design we collaborated with Eduardo Barrita who is the founder of Hacer Común a design center that links the talent of the crafts to promote the virtues and prosperity in his community, Zimatlán, Oaxaca, through the co-creation of objects of daily use that revalue tradition.
For the elaboration, Eduardo worked with Jesús Gómez, a maestro from the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca, the area where the molinillos are traditionally produced.
Eduardo believes in the power of design as a tool for social transformation, self-knowledge, and exploration of the community and its environment to build a new reality and a better place for everyone.
And at Cuna de Piedra we believe in the importance of sharing and remembering the beauty of our traditions to all corners of Mexico and the world.
Our “molinillos” are crafted out of the Mexican Aile wood (Alnus Acuminata tree). To achieve the smoked color finish (inspired by our grandmothers’ kitchens) a direct fire burn was done with a blowtorch and for the final finish cacao butter and almond oil were applied. Once the butter and oil are absorbed, the excesses are removed and finally the piece is polished to remove the shine with a brush.
Now whenever I look at the Cuna De Piedra molinillo I cannot help but view it as a beautiful tangible example of how tradition has shaped our current day experience of the joy that chocolate brings to our lives. And, each time I use it I cannot help but pause as I experience an inherent sense of connectedness to those who have come before me that have made drinking chocolate this way for hundreds of years. It’s a satisfying experience that will cause you to appreciate your cup of drinking chocolate more than you have in the past.
Cheers to tradition and how innovation allows us to continuously refine the art of chocolate!