NASHVILLE, Tenn. (MEDIA GENERAL) — Whether you call it hot chocolate, hot cocoa, cocoa or “ho-cho,” we can all agree that a steaming cup of chocolaty goodness topped with giant, gooey marshmallows (or maybe the mini ones or some freshly-made whipped cream?) is one of the better parts of winter.
But no matter what you call it or how you take it, it’s time to celebrate that warm, heavenly beverage—it’s National Cocoa Day!
It’s no secret, chocolate itself is pretty incredible.
The Latin name for the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, means “food of the gods.” The Aztecs and Mayans also thought the beans had divine powers, using them in a variety of religious ceremonies and rituals.
But long, long before chocolate was consumed in neatly-wrapped candy bars (like, 2,00 years ago), it was consumed in it’s warm, drinkable form by the Aztecs.
Their drink, “xocoatl,” was much different from the fireside beverage we enjoy on cold nights.
Much like we make coffee, the Aztecs would grind up cacao beans (what chocolate is made from) and brew it to release the flavors. The drink was bitter, and used for medicinal purposes—nothing we’d enjoy.
Luckily, people have continued to experiment with cacao beans and chocolate over the years.
The “drinking chocolate” we know and love was first advertised in 17th century England, after the opening of the first “chocolate house,” like a modern-day coffee shop. However, the drink was only consumed by royals, aristocrats and wealthy merchants—it was much to expensive for commoners.
Powered cocoa was not invented until 1828. Created by the Dutch chemist Coenrad J. Van Houten, ‘Dutch-processed’ cocoa powder is treated with alkaline salts, which give it it’s dark, rich color, and has a much lower fat content than regular chocolate. Van Houten’s product came in block or cake form, and easily reduced to powder form, making it much cheaper, too.
Later, the term “drinking chocolate” was used to distinguish plain cocoa powder and the powdered chocolate mixed with warm milk or water for drinking.
Today, drinking chocolate is pretty easy—so start heating up your stove or crock pot, grab your cocoa powder or melting chocolate and get drinking!
Fiegl, Amanda. “A Brief History of Chocolate.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian Institution, 1 Mar. 2008. Web.
Zonis, Stephanie. “The History of Chocolate and HOt Cocoa.” The Nibble: Great Food Finds. Lifestyle Direct, Inc., Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.