The surprisingly rich history of hot chocolate
Until now, I was only acquainted with the Swiss Miss I make at home and the annual hot chocolate from the Christkindlmarket down in the city. But after doing some research, I have discovered a variety of different recipes for making delicious hot cocoa. But first, let’s take a mini history lesson on hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate is a beverage that typically consists of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugar. The first hot chocolate, or chocolate beverage, is thought to be created by the Mayas around 2,000 years ago and was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400. It served a financial, nutritional, and religious purpose and was especially considered sacred. This drink was used during initiation ceremonies, marriages, funerals, religious ceremonies, as an after dinner drink, and more. It was also used to treat sicknesses and diseases. Mesoamerican chocolate, like most dark chocolate, was bitter. So to add a kick, they added things like maize and chili peppers.
The beverage eventually became very popular in Europe, and from there the recipe has been revamped over the years.
Just a few of the many variations of hot chocolate are spiced hot chocolate, caramel hot chocolate, and holiday-themed hot chocolate. All these recipes have the same basic ingredients, but then have a little spin put on them.
For example, a pumpkin hot chocolate can consist of 2 cups of milk, 2 tablespoons hot cocoa mix, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons pumpkin purée, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. While a spiced hot chocolate could consist of 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 1 teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg, 4 fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, 4 cups milk, 3/4 cup dark Dutch process cocoa, 1/3 cup honey, 1 tablespoon teaspoon vanilla extract, and pinch of sugar. However, these two complex hot chocolate recipes have a few things in common such as milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and of course, cocoa.
So it goes to show that even though there are plenty of different kinds of hot chocolate, they all started out the same way. Now every time you take a sip of of your creative variations of hot chocolate, think about the history behind it, but enjoy it too!