Foods | Cooking
Hints & Tips
History of Hot Chocolate
There is a difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate
The terms Hot Cocoa and Hot Chocolate are often used interchangeably, but technically they are as
Milk Chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. Hot cocoa is
made from cocoa powder, which is chocolate pressed free of all its
richness, meaning the fat of cocoa butter. Hot chocolate is made from chocolate bars melted into cream. It
is a rich decadent drink.
The original hot chocolate
recipe was a mixture of ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and chile peppers. It
didn't take long for Spaniards to begin heating the mixture and
sweetening it with sugar. After being introduced in England, milk was
added to the then after-dinner treat.
The word chocolate is said to derive from the Mayan word xocoatl; cocoa from the Aztec word cacahuatl.
The Mexican Indian word chocolat comes from a combination of the terms choco ("foam") and atl ("water"); as early chocolate was only
consumed in beverage form.
Chocolate grows on trees,
appearing in its raw state as melon-like pods (see photo on right) on the 40-
to 60-foot tall trees known botanically as "Theobroma cacao," which means "food of the
gods." This tropical tree has grown wild in Central America since
prehistoric times. It also grows in South America, Africa, and parts of Indonesia. The cacao tree produces a fruit about the size of a small pineapple. Inside
the fruit are the tree's seeds, also known as cocoa beans.
Chocolate has been drunk as a beverage
for thousands of years. Archeologists tell us that the Olmecs, the oldest civilization of the Americas (1500-400 BC), were probably the first
users of cacao, followed by the Maya, who consumed cacao-based drinks made with beans from their plantations
in the Chontalpa region of what is now eastern Tabasco.
A drink called 'chocolatl' made from
roasted cocoa beans, water and a little spice was their most important
use, but cocoa beans were also valued as a currency. Because cocoa beans were valuable, they were given as gifts at
ceremonies such as a child's coming of age and at religious ceremonies.
The Maya had very many complicated religious beliefs with many gods.
Merchants often traded cocoa beans for other commodities, cloth, jade,
and ceremonial feathers.
Maya farmers transported their cocoa beans to
market by canoe or in large baskets strapped to their backs, and wealthy
merchants, employing porters to carry their wares, ventured as far as
Mexico the land of the Aztecs, so introducing them to the much prized
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), the first European to taste
cocoa in Nicaragua, on his fourth voyage to the New World, returned to
Europe with the first cocoa beans. No one knew what to do with them and
they were dismissed in favor of other trade goods.
By the time the Spanish invaded Mexico in
the 16th century the Aztecs had created a powerful empire and their armies
were supreme in Mexico.
The voyage which led Hernan Cortes (1485-1547), Spanish conquistadores, to
discover Mexico and the Aztec civilization began in 1517 when he set
sail from Cuba with 11 ships and 600 men, all seeking fame and fortune
in the 'New World'. Landing on the Mexican coast near Veracruz, he
decided to make his way to Tenochtitlan to see for himself the famed
riches of Emperor Montezuma and the Aztec empire.
It was Montezuma (1466-1520), Emperor of Mexico, who introduced Hernam
Cortes to his favourite drink 'chocolatl' served in a golden goblet.
American historian William Hickling's History of the Conquest of
Mexico (1838) reports that Montezuma:
"took no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation
of chocolate, flavored with vanilla and spices, and so prepared as to be
reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually
dissolved in the mouth and was taken cold."
The fact that Montezuma consumed his "chocolatl" in goblets before
entering his harem led to the belief that it was an aphrodisiac. Cortes wrote a letter to Charles V of
Spain calling chocolate
"The divine drink which builds up resistance & fights fatigue. A cup of
this precious drink permits man to walk for a whole day without food."
When Cortes returned to Spain in 1528 he loaded his galleons
with cocoa beans and chocolate drink making equipment.
Late 1500s -
Introduction of chocolate to Europe. According to the article
From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate,
by Louis E. Grivetti:
While many recent texts and
websites provide readers with a precise year and a specific
event whereby chocolate was first introduced to Europe, food
historians always debate “firsts” and the so-called “first”
arrival of chocolate in Europe is a subject of conjecture to say
nothing of myth. Chocolate may have been introduced to Europe
via the Spanish court in 1544, when Dominican friars are said to
have brought Mayan nobles to meet Prince Philip. I suspect,
though, that this oft-cited statement is probably more
allegorical than precise. It is correct to say, however, that
within a century of the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, both
culinary and medicinal uses of chocolate had spread from Mexico
to Spain, France, England, and elsewhere within Western Europe
(entering through Spain and Portugal) and probably North America
as well (entering through the Spanish settlement at St.
In 1631, the first recipe for a chocolate
drink was published in Spain by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma, an
Andalusian physician, in his book, Curioso tratado de la naturaleza y
calidad del chocolate (A Curious Treatise of the Nature and Quality
of Chocolate). This was the first work to deal exclusively with
chocolate and cacao. Don Antonio is said to have lived for some time in
the West Indies. Since he was a doctor, he pays a great deal of
attention to the dietary aspects of chocolate and was concerned with the
psychological as well as the physical effects of the drink. He says,
"Chocolate is healthy. It makes the drinker 'Fat, and
Corpulent, faire and Aimiable'. It was an aphrodisiac. In women it
caused fertility but eased delivery, etc., etc."
The ingredients in the recipe were:
"Take one hundred cocoa beans, two chillies, a handful of anise seed
and two of vanilla (two pulverized Alexandria roses can be
substituted), two drams of cinnamon, one dozen almonds and the same
amount of hazelnuts, half a pound of white sugar and enough annatto
to give some color. And there you have the king of chocolates."
- It didn't take long for
Spaniards to begin heating the mixture and sweetening it with sugar. Soon 'chocolate' became a fashionable
drink enjoyed by the rich in Spain.
As the Spanish royalty
intermarried with other European Royalty, cocoa was given as a dowry.
In 1643, when the Spanish Princess Maria Theresa
(1638-1683)was betrothed to Louis XIV (1638–1715) of France, she
gave her fiancé an engagement gift of chocolate, packaged in an
elegantly ornate chest. A royal chocolate maker was appointed and
chocolate drinking became the rage.
Thomas Gage (1603-1656), an English
Dominican friar and traveler, tried to intervene with the Bishop of
Chiapas, Mexico over the congregation drinking chocolate during
services. The women were fond of chocolate and turned church services
into a coffeehouse. The Bishop tried to end this, and was consequently
found dead. Poisoned chocolate was sent to the Bishop and Thomas Gage
fled Chiapas. The rumor was that the women, who so hated the Bishop for
this restriction, poisoned him with chocolate, hence the proverb "Beware
the chocolate of Chiapa."
Eventually, in 1662,
Pope Alexander VII put a final solution to the affair when he declared "Liquidum
non frangit jejunum." Translated it means "Liquids (including chocolate)
do not break the fast."
In his 1656 book, Travels in the New
World, Thomas Gage devotes an entire chapter to chocolate and tells
how the women of the city of Chiapas, Mexico were excommunicated by the
bishop because "they would not give up sipping their cups of chocolate
to sustain them during high mass."
Chocolate was considered an exotic
beverage throughout Europe.
The “Queen’s Lane Coffee House on High
Street,” Oxford, began serving both coffee and chocolate in 1656 and
still serves both beverages today in the 21st century. The Public
Advertiser of that day carried this notice:
"In Bishopsgate Street in
Queen's Head Alley, at a Frenchman's house, is an excellent West
Indian drink called chcolate, to be sold, where you may have it
ready at any time, and also unmade, at reasonable rates."
Samuel Pepys (1663-1703), English Naval Administrator and Member of
Parliament, known for his
detailed private diary that he kept during
1660–1669. Pepys was known to frequent coffee houses and mentioned them
in great detail in his 1661 to 1664 diary. He was said to strongly
believing in the restorative powers of chocolate:
"April 24, 1661 - Waked in the
morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s
drink, which I am very sorry for; so rose and went with Mr
Creede to drink our morning draught, which he did give me in
jocolatte to settle my stomach"
2664. About noon out with Commissioner Pett, and he and I to a
Coffee-house, to drink jocolatte, very good; and so by coach to
Westminster, being the first day of the Parliament's meeting."
By the 1700s, "Chocolate
Houses" were all the rage, as popular as coffee houses. These places were precursors
of our present day cafes and bars, and they were frequented by
politicians, writers, and socialites.
Chocolate Set photo courtesy of Judi van der Kaay of Cottage
From the middle of the seventeenth century onwards, chocolate also
enjoyed great success in Great Britain, especially after the conquest of
Jamaica, which gave the British direct access to cacao production. After chocolate was introduced
in England, milk was added to the after dinner treat.
By the end of the 18th century, London's
chocolate houses began to disappear, many of the more fashionable ones
becoming smart gentlemen's clubs.
Thomas Jefferson was to become a great
lover of hot chocolate. In a letter to John Adams in 1785, he wrote:
"The superiority of chocolate, both for health and
nourishment, will soon give it the same preference over tea and coffee
in America which it has in Spain."
Chocolate as Medicine
According to the article
Aphrodisiac to Health
Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate, by Louis E. Grivetti:
From the 16th through early 19th century, numerous European travel
accounts and medical texts documented the presumed merits and medicinal
value of chocolate. . . Presented here is a brief “taste” of these rich
chocolate-related passages from selected historical monographs. On
inspection, these samples reveal that chocolate products were used to
treat a myriad of human disorders:
Francisco Hernández (1577) wrote that pure cacao paste
prepared as a beverage treated fever and liver disease. He also
mentioned that toasted, ground cacao beans mixed with resin were
effective against dysentery and that chocolate beverages were commonly
prescribed to thin patients in order for them to gain “flesh.”
Agustin Farfan (1592) recorded that chili peppers, rhubarb, and
vanilla were used by the Mexica as purgatives and that chocolate
beverages served hot doubled as powerful laxatives.
José de Acosta (1604) wrote that chili was sometimes added to
chocolate beverages and that eating chocolate paste was good for stomach
Santiago de Valverde Turices (1624) concluded that chocolate
drunk in great quantities was beneficial for treatment of chest
ailments, but if drunk in small quantities was a satisfactory medicine
for stomach disorders.
Colmenero de Ledesma (1631) reported that cacao preserved
consumers’ health, made them corpulent, improved their complexions, and
made their dispositions more agreeable. He wrote that drinking chocolate
incited love-making, led to conception in women, and facilitated
delivery. He also claimed that chocolate aided digestion and cured
Henry Stubbe (1662) wrote that consumers should drink chocolate
beverages once or twice each day to relieve tiredness caused by
strenuous business activities. He reported that ingesting cacao oil was
an effective treatment for the Fire of St. Anthony (i.e., ergot
poisoning). Stubbe also described chocolate-based concoctions mixed with
Jamaica pepper used to treat menstrual disorders, and other chocolate
preparations blended with vanilla to strengthen the heart and to promote
Ancient Chocolate Found in Maya "Teapot", By Bijal P. Trivedi, National
Geographics Society, July 17, 2002.
Chocolate: an illustrated history, Morton, M. & Morton,
F. Crown Publishers, 1986,
Chocolate Cookery, General Food Corporation, New York, 1929.
From Aphrodisiac to Health Food: A Cultural History of Chocolate, by Louis E. Grivetti,
Karger Gazette, No. 68 Chocolate.
Gage, Thomas, by Hether Sebens, The Historical Text Archive.
When The Church Said "No" to Chocolate, by Ann Ball, Mexico Connect.
The True History of Chocolate, by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe,
published by Thames and Hudson Ltd, London, 1996.
Hot Chocolate Recipes
Mayan Hot Chocolate Photo from Phoenix Magazine
Have you seen the movie, Chocolat? This is like the hot chocolate that was served in the movie.
2 cups boiling water, cut in half, seeds removed (with gloves)
5 cups light
cream or whole or nonfat milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 to 2 cinnamon sticks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or 3 tablets
Mexican Chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons granulated sugar or honey, or to taste
l tablespoon almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine/span>
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add chile pepper to boiling
water. Cook until liquid is reduced to 1 cup. Remove chile pepper; strain
water and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine cream or milk, vanilla bean
and cinnamon stick until bubbles appear around the edge. Reduce heat to low;
add chocolate and sugar or honey; whisk occasionally until chocolate is
melted and sugar dissolves. Turn off heat; remove vanilla bean and cinnamon
stick. Add chile-infused water, a little at a time, tasting to make sure the
flavor isn't too strong. If chocolate is too thick, thin with a little more
Serve in small cups and offer ground almonds or
hazelnuts and whipped cream.
Angelina’s Hot Chocolate
The Angelina Cafe in Paris, open since 1903, serves a
thick hot chocolate version in demitasse cups with a tiny dollop of
mascarpone and whipped cream. They are famous for making hot chocolate from
melted chocolate bars. It is incredibly easy to prepare by mixing chocolate
shavings with hot water. You can serve it in small cups or in 17th-century
style chocolate pots and demitasse cups such as those sold in gourmet shops.
6 ounces fine-quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water, room temperature
3 tablespoons hot water
3 cups hot milk, divided
Sugar to taste
Whipped cream, if desired
In a double boiler over low heat, combine chocolate and 1/4 cup water
until melted, stirring occasionally; stir until smooth.
Remove top of double boiler pan from. Whisk in 3 tablespoons hot water.
Pour into pitcher or divide among individual 4 mugs. Either stir 3/4 cup hot
milk into each mug or serve milk in a separate pitcher. Pass sugar and
whipped cream in separate bowls; add to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Italian Hot Chocolate - Cioccolato Caldo
Italy is famous for their Cioccolato Caldo,
especially during the fall and winter months. This hot chocolate is sometimes served
so thick (like a pudding), that you need a spoon to actually eat it! this
recipe doesn't make it that thick. The luxurious richness comes from using
Dutch-process Cocoa powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao solids), finely chopped
2 cups milk
In a small saucepan over low heat, add the cocoa powder,
sugar, and 2 tablespoons of the milk, Heat until the sugar melts and no
lumps remain, stirring well. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly; add
the remaining milk. Turn off the heat, add the chopped chocolate, stirring
Pour into serving cups and enjoy!
Makes 2 servings.
Mexican Hot Chocolate Recipes
In central and southern Mexico, people commonly drink chocolate twice a day year-round. Having a
layer of foam on hot chocolate is as important today in Mexico as it was in
ancient times. Mexicans believe the spirit of the drink is in the foam. The
chocolate is whipped to a froth with a carved wooden utensil called a
Molinillo and served in mugs.
Molinillo [moh-lee-NEE-oh] is the Mexican chocolate "whisk" or "stirrer." It is made of "turned"
wood and it is used to froth warm drinks such as hot chocolate, Atole, and Champurrado.
Mexican Hot Chocolate I
6 cups milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 ounces unsweetened
Mexican Chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Stick cinnamon (for optional garnish)
In a large saucepan, combine milk, sugar, chocolate, ground cinnamon, and
salt. Heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted and the milk
is very hot. (Do not let the milk come to a boil.)
Beat 2 eggs in a mixing bowl. Stir in one cup of the hot mixture into the
eggs, then return this mixture to the saucepan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more
over low heat, still stirring.
Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Beat with a
Molinillo or a rotary beater until it is very frothy. Pour into mugs, garnish with cinnamon
sticks, and serve. Makes about 6 (8-ounce) servings.
Mexican Hot Chocolate II
This recipe and photo are courtesy of Cynthia Detterick-Pineda of Andrews, TX.
4 (1-ounce) squares of
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup hot water
Small pinch of salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 cups of milk
1 egg (optional)
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 dried red
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat, add the Mexican chocolate, honey, hot
water, salt, coffee, and chile pepper. Heat, stirring constantly,
until the mixture just begins to boil; reduce heat to low and let
simmer, stirring constantly, for approximately an additional 1 minute.
Carefully stir in the milk and let sit over low heat until the chocolate
is too warm to touch (you can see the steam rising from it).
In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg until it is frothy, you can use an electric mixer, a
Molinillo, or a fork for this. You just need to make it as frothy as possible. Add the vanilla extract and beat in well.
Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the frothed egg and beat it vigorously for about
15 seconds. You want to beat it until you have about 1/2- to 1-inch of foam on top.
Pour into cups or mugs to serve. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the hot chocolate once it is in the mug.