Oh, to the decadent drink of hot chocolate! When Wintry weather settles in around us the decadence of chocolate seems to beckon. A Wintry delight, indeed. Defined as a “heated beverage that typically consists of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water and sugar”, this steamy drink of chocolate wonder is an enduring Winter delight.
Of interest, “Drinking Chocolate” is similar to hot chocolate but is made of melted chocolate shavings rather than a powdered mix that is soluble in water and is usually not as sweet as hot chocolate. Alas, although delicious in its own right, it is the sweetness of the chocolate that we certainly crave! To appreciate a drink of chocolate sweetness, a brief look back into its enduring history….
The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayas around 2,000 years ago. Mayan Indians first harvested Cacoa beans from the Cacoa pods and frequently traded them with the Aztecs. The Aztecs ground the beans into a bitter, coarse paste which they mixed with water and spices. The predecessor to the hot cocoa we know today! The cacao beverage known as “Xocoatl” was considered an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD. Quite a duration of a liquid of cacao. History states that the Aztecs would later cultivate the cacao tree and appointed their god Quetzalcoatl as the guardian of the cacao tree. For certain a history that revered the gift of chocolate. Aztec emperor Montezuma stated “The divine drink, which builds up resistance and fights fatigue. A cup of this drink permits a man to walk a whole day without food”. A cup of energy, indeed. In fact, Montezuma is said to have drank 50 goblets of Xocaotl each day. Imagine! He certainly lived by his words in revering this chocolate delight!
As history brings change, it was Spanish soldier and explorer, Heranado Cortez, who would conquer the Aztec empire and claim Mexico for Spain. Among the gifts brought back to Spain was the drink of chocolate. Hernando Cortez is credited with its introduction to the court of the Spanish King, Charles V. The introduction of this beverage of chocolate from Mexico to the New World quickly brought the popularity of this drink to Europe. In 1615, Spanish Princess Anna of Austria, introduced to her new husband, King Louis XIII this rich drink of chocolate which quickly found fancy among the kings court. From there…the love of the drink of chocolate found its way to Italy and beyond. In 1657 French chocalatier David chaillou had opened the first chocolate house specializing in chocolate. In 1828, Dutchman Hendrick Van Houten is credited with the warming of the foamy drink. Van Houten created a press that extracted from the beans natural fats known as “cocoa butter”, which could eventually be sifted into cocoa powder. In addition, Van Houten created a process known as “Dutching” that neutralized the acidic taste from the cocoa. Alas, “Dutch Chocolate” met the world! The English would change the name of the drink to “Hot Chocolate”. As with everything, changes and adaptions have evolved over time. Consumed throughout the world, the sweet variations abounded, including the very thick “cioccolata densa” served in Italy and the thinner hot cocoa that became typical in America. No matter the way it is served, this drink laden with chocolate is sure to delight!
Consider the decadence of this rich, chocolate delight. What may seem somehow relegated to the youth or our recollections of our own youth can certainly be reclaimed as an elegant treat of distinction. Hot chocolate will endure to provide a luxurious delight when served in its dense, decadent, rich and creamy format. Options and possibilities swirling in chocolate delight. Life is sweet, indeed…