There’s more to Cocoa than Chocolate and Water. There’s fascinating history that goes back to around 500 BC and a host of regional traditions that have grown out of the global love of this flavour. For those of us who live in cold climes, it’s a tradition at Christmas and New Year’s, and welcome all all winter!
The first known us of Cocoa-based beverages appears about 500 BC, when the Myans of Central America began using it as a ceremonial libation. The scientific name for the Cocoa Bean Pl;ant gets its inspiration from that source: Theobroma Cocoa means, loosely, drink of the Gods.
The Aztecs, who came after the Myans, also revered Cocoa as a ceremonial beverage and of which they referred to as xocōlātl . It is from them that the conquistadors – or, more likely, the Jesuit Missionaries whop came with them, acquired the taste.
In Europe, the love for Cocoa spread quickly to all corners. Cocoa was used as a medicinal beverage until the 19th century, favoured for treating liver and stomach ailments. New ways to prepare and serve Cocoa exploded in the mid 19th century. Sweet Chocolate appeared in many countries once confectioners tried adding sugar and fat to it. Cocoa was used in baking around the same time and it seemed that everyone in the culinary world wanted a ‘bit’ of the new fad.
But it was more than a fad. Chocolate has proven to be a proven mood enhancer and it’s unique flavour remains a clear favourite in a world where we can have just about any flavour we can imagine, thanks to science.
So, what about the beverage now?
There are really two kinds of contemporary ‘Chocolate’ beverage made from Coca powder and various liquids and additions.
Hot Chocolate is always made with heated milk and sweetened. It is usually made with shaved Chocolate rather than Cocoa Powder. The sweetener can be almost anything, but White or Brown Sugar are usually employed. But I’ve tried Maple syrup, Demerara Sugar, Golden Syrup and Sorghum. All good, but all different. Some folks swear by Honey.
Hot Cocoa is another animal. Some say you must mix Coca Powder with Hot Milk. Others insist you must steep Cocoa Powder in Hot water, as you would tea leaves. I’ve seen Water-based Cocoa made in the Filter-Coffee Rig. Why not? I’m no fan of powder or grit in my beverages.
Then comes the vexed question of sweetening. Those who make Cocoa with Milk say you don’t sweeten. Those who make it with Water, like my English Grandmother, generally say you should.
In the end, it’s up to you. Make it and enjoy it the way you like it. I take my Cocoa, ‘Milk, no Sugar’. In case you’re planing on dropping in and bringing me a beverage, I take my Tea black, and my Coffee the same as my Cocoa. Thank you.
~ Maggie J.