Hot Chocolate Around the World: How All of Us Enjoy Our Cocoa

Updated on February 11, 2019
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

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The First Baristas?

As long ago as 500 B.C., the Maya people were gathering, roasting, and grinding the fruits from cocoa pods, steeping the grindings in water, and mixing the drink with chili peppers and then pouring it back and forth from a cup to a pot until a thick foam developed.

They pick out kernels and lay them on mats to dry; when they wish for the beverage, they roast them in an earthen pan over a fire and grind them with stones used for preparing bread. Finally, they put the paste into cups... and mix it gradually with water, sometimes adding a little of their spice, they drink it, though it seems more suited for pigs than men.... The flavor is somewhat bitter, but it satisfies and refreshes the body without intoxicating: the Indians esteem it above everything.

— History of the New World, 1564 Girolamo Benzoni

The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) originated in the Amazon basin and grows in a limited geographical zone, of about 20° to the north and south of the Equator. It was an important commodity in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, used as both a stimulant and fermented into an alcoholic beverage.

In 1518 Hernando Cortez embarked on an expedition from Santo Domingo to a settlement in an area now known as Veracruz. Coincidently, his arrival coincided with an Aztec prophecy that a white-skinned god would arrive from the east (can you believe it?).

Cortez was welcomed with open arms and lavished with gifts and no doubt was able to partake in the cacao beverage ritual. But shortly after that relations slid downhill at a rapid rate.

Cortez, fearing an uprising, took the Aztec King Montezuma hostage, demanding a huge ransom for his return. In the process of "negotiations," Montezuma was struck in the head with a stone projectile and died of his injuries.

At this point, things went from bad to worse (for the Aztecs). Cortez and his army were initially driven out of town, but they reorganized and returned in 1521. After a three-month battle, Cortez seized the capital Tenochtitlan and established it as a new Spanish settlement (today's Mexico City). Cortez was appointed Governor of the area, now dubbed New Spain. After inflicting monumental cruelties against the populace and infecting them with smallpox, Cortez and his band of merry men returned to Spain and brought with them cacao beans and the tools required to turn the beans into a bitter-tasting yet popular drink.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar, and...

King Charles of Spain ditched the chili peppers, added sugar, and the drink was served hot. However, the Spaniards were very protective of their new-found beverage. It wasn't until the 1700s that it began to appear in London chocolate houses (just like Starbucks). You can thank Hanz Sloane, who in the late 1700s borrowed from Jamaica the concept of mixing the dark brew with milk. Hot chocolate was born!

Today hot chocolate is enjoyed around the world as a comforting beverage, but many countries and cultures have added local spices and flavorings to impart their own unique spin. Let's look at a few of those.

Recipes

Austria: Viennese Hot Chocolate

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The hot chocolate of Vienna is the perfect introduction to this topic. This recipe produces a beverage for two that is unbelievably dark, rich, and thick. This drink is for the serious chocolate lover.

Belgium: Belgian Hot Chocolate

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From Vienna catch a flight across Germany to Brussels. In less than 2 hours you can be enjoying a cup of cocoa redolent with the flavor of world-famous Belgian chocolate. David Lebovitz shares his recipe with us. Whole milk or half-and-half is warmed to a gentle just-below-simmer. Dark and milk chocolates are carefully stirred in until melted. A pinch of cinnamon offers a subtle earthy note. Don't forget to add a dollop of whipped cream.

Canada: Dark Chocolate Maple Cocoa

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Our next stop in this alphabetical journey takes us to Canada where 71 percent of the world's pure maple syrup is produced. This recipe by Charity is not for the kids. Our hot cup of cocoa is taken over the top with Jim Beam, Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, and (if that wasn't enough) a dark-chocolate bacon strip garnish.

China: Cocoa, Rock Salt, and Cheese Drink

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Don't allow the name of this beverage to discourage you from trying it. Here the cheese is actually cream cheese. Think of this as a drinkable chocolate cheesecake.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a 3-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces hot water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold milk
  • crushed ice
  • cocoa powder for garnish

Instructions

  1. Whip together the cream cheese, condensed milk and whipping cream with an electric beater.
  2. Stir the water, cocoa powder, and sugar together in a mug. Transfer to a tall glass. Add cold milk, ice, and then carefully top with the whipped cheese mixture.

Colombia: Colombian Hot Chocolate with Cheese

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Unlike the Chinese recipe (above), this one contains real, honest-to-goodness cheese. Cubes of cheese. If you can find cheese curds (Wisconsin squeaky cheese) that would be perfect. Haloumi is even better (but more difficult to find). If all else fails, buy some mozzarella—not the fresh kind, but rather the stuff you grate to put on top of your pizza.

Sweet and salty works with pretzels and chocolate, caramel and sea salt. Is this so much different? Thanks to KikuCorner for the original recipe.

France: Parisian Chocolat Chaud

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I am not one to resort to hyperbole, but a cup of Parisian hot chocolate is life-changing.

Period.

This is not the cocoa powder and hot water you drank as a child. This cup (a mug would be too much) is more akin to melted fudge or a pourable ganache. The secret is in the quality of the chocolate. Use nothing less than chocolate that contains 70 percent cocoa to ensure ultimate chocolate flavor. Whole milk and cream provide luxurious texture, and pure vanilla and brown sugar add caramel-like sweetness.

Hungary: Forró Csokoládé

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Hungarian Heat Hot Chocolate is from the blog VanillaGarlic. This is his adaptation from the book "Hot Chocolate" by Michael Turback.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan over medium-low heat combine the milk, paprika, white pepper, and cloves together and heat until almost boiling.
  2. Add chocolate and stir in with a wooden spoon and continue to stir until the chocolate is fully melted.
  3. Whisk to a froth and serve immediately.

India: Mumbai Hot Chocolate

I found this recipe at StowawayMag. All of the amazing earthy spices you associate with India (ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom) are blended with a surprising element—white chocolate.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons high quality white chocolate chips or grated white chocolate
  • 1 cup milk or soy milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 whole black peppercorn

Instructions

1. Take two mugs and place one tablespoon of white chocolate into each. Set aside.

2. Place milk and water into a small saucepan. Whisk in the spices. Place over medium heat and allow to slowly come to a boil. Whisk occasionally.

3. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and remove the clove and peppercorn.

4. Whisk vigorously to distribute the spices and create foam on top. Remove from heat.

5. Pour half of the milk mixture into each of the mugs. Stir to melt the white chocolate. Spoon some of the foam onto the top of each and serve.

Italy: Cioccolata Calda

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Dark chocolate is melted into heavy cream. And, just because there are no laws about how sinfully luxurious a cup of hot chocolate can be, the beverage is then thickened with cornstarch before it is poured into your mug and adorned with freshly whipped cream.

This recipe comes from BrownEyedBaker, who believes that it is perfectly acceptable to eat dessert first. By the way, she suggests that you can add a spoonful of your favorite liqueur to this cocoa.

Mexico: Mayan Hot Chocolate

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Mexico, the birthplace of hot chocolate. Perhaps I should have shared this one with you first. Creamy dark, rich Mexican chocolate with a hint of chili pepper. If you have ever seen the movie "Chocolat", you know what I am talking about. And, if you have not seen the movie, add it to your list of must-see movies.

I'm happy that the blog FavFamilyRecipes shared the secret with us.

Morocco: Spicy Moroccan Hot Chocolate

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What do you think of when you hear the name Morocco? I'm old enough that I immediately envision Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca." You might think of the garden of Marrakech. Undeniably it is an exotic land rich in culture with a diverse cuisine with Moorish, European, and Mediterranean influences.

Fragrant orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom pods, and vanilla flavor rich beverage by TeaspoonOfSpice.

Panama: Kuna Hot Chocolate

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“What got me turned onto the Kuna in the first place was twenty years of Harvard University studies showing that the Kuna have among the lowest rates of cardiovascular vascular disease in the world, even though they're poor, have lousy sanitation and hygiene, no access to medicine… and yet, they have this remarkably low incident of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure: and they consume four to five cups of cocoa a piece, every single day.”

— Chris Kilham, ABC Good Morning America

This final cocoa recipe takes us back to Central America. The San Blas Archipelago is a chain of 360 tropical islands off the east coast of Panama. This closely-knit tribal community subsists much as their ancestors did, free of the shackles of westernization.

Will You Try One of These Recipes?

Which cocoa recipe do you think you will try?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Lum

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        7 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Ann, yours are the first comments I have read today (it is presently 7:30 a.m. on a very rainy, blustery Sunday). What a lovely way to begin the day and week. After church I do believe that I will join you in that deep, dark rich cup. Thank you.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        7 months ago from SW England

        Linda, not only have you made me hungry this morning but now you've made me yearn for a long cup of frothy hot chocolate, especially as our temperatures have dropped dramatically in the last couple of days! Though the sun is bathing us today, it's not much warmer, so I think a hot chocolate will be the thing to have later, after a walk.

        Comfort food, or drink, is the best and this is the best of the best, as are your hubs.

        Ann

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Pamela, you are the second person to turn down marshmallows. I'd make it three. Too sweet, too sticky. Give me whipped cream or nothing at all. I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Yes, summer is gone and we are getting into hot chocolate weather.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        8 months ago from Sunny Florida

        I haven't had any hot chocolate, but with the changing weather I would love to have some. I loved reading about all the various recipes from around the worls. I liked the idea for several of them. A dollop of whipped cream would be nice, but no marshmellows please.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Oh Manatita, I have finally found the way to your heart. I must write about sweets. Much appreciation for your kind words.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        8 months ago from USA

        I definitely will! Thanks for this article!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, I'm glad you liked this--I did it for you. I would not suggest chocolate and peppercorns, but a teeny tiny pinch of chili powder is amazing! Not enough to open your sinuses or burn your tongue, but it adds a bit of interest, an "hmmm, what's going on?" feeling. And, while we're on the topic, you must watch the movie "Chocolat."

      • manatita44 profile image

        manatita44 

        8 months ago from london

        I will try the Grenadian one, of course, or I run the risk of not being patriotic. (Chuckle) Truly there was an Englishman or American, not sure, who came to Grenada and opened a factory. Soon we were doing very well abroad and had a fantastic reputation for making cocoa plus drinks.

        Alas! I heard that he died by accident. He was electrocuted. The entire workforce was very, very sad.

        Linda you are getting better and better. First you were an American mango, then an Indian mango and finally achieved the sweetness and exquisite beauty with your pieces, as the Grenadian mango. Ha ha. No offense, dear. Just being creative.

        Yes, the Spaniards were extremely cruel. But you know, I picked up a lonely planet guide about Africa and realised that the French, Belgium and Germans were very cruel too. Well, we are still evolving. Who knows the ways of the Lord. This is a delectable-delicious-finger-licking page. Ha ha. Peace!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        8 months ago from USA

        What a splendid article! You have outdone yourself! This should be very shareable at Christmastime/wintertime. I hope all your readers will tweet, pin, Flip, or share now on their favorite social media site because Santa has the entire world to navigate and he’ll need to keep energized on his big night. And we will need this during shopping season!

        There are a few I wouldn’t try because I’m a wimp when it comes to new flavor combinations (e.g., cheese, peppercorns with chocolate) but most of these sound super indulgent. Get the fat pants out!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Shauna, salt on apples? Never thought of that, but apples and Cheddar go together like peas and carrots. Why not? My favorite slice of apple pie has a slice of cheese melted on top.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, mochas with coffee? Mom always told me the coffee would "stunt my growth." I'm guessing that you are about 6 ft tall, I'm 5 ft zero. Should not have listened to mom.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        8 months ago from Central Florida

        Hot chocolate and cheese? Sounds odd, but it's probably great with cheese curds. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, but I do like sweet and salty. That's probably why I'd put salt on apples and watermelon as a kid!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        8 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I love me hot chocolate...never with marshmallows, thank you very much. No wonder I love mochas, right? I started training for mochas when I was three years old. :)

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        8 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Rachel, thank you so much. Typically I do not favor sweets, but hot cocoa is where I make the exception. The darker and thicker the better. Have a wonderful day.

      • profile image

        Rachel Alba 

        8 months ago

        Hi Linda, Who could not love hot chocolate??? Your pictures and recipes looks so inviting and delicious. I can't wait to try them. I enjoyed the history of chocolate also. Thanks for sharing. I will be pinning these recipes.

        Blessings to you.

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