From the warmth of your living room, you look outside the window and see an endless sea of white. Fluffy bits of snow are coming down from an overcast sky. The cold outside goes bone deep. The crackling of the fire in front of you brings you back to reality. The cold can’t touch you in here. Nothing compares to a warm mug of hot chocolate on a relentless winter day. It has an uncanny ability to drive out the last traces of cold which stubbornly cling to you.
“Love is like swallowing hot chocolate before it has cooled off. It takes you by surprise at first, but keeps you warm for a long time.” – Anonymous
A History of Hot Coco
It’s often the case with many delicious foods and drinks we consume, that we don’t put much thought into where and how they actually came to be. Hot chocolate has a pretty rich and surprising history.
It is believed that hot chocolate came into being over 2000 years ago in Mexico. Cacao plants were first cultivated by the Olmec, a civilization living in southern Mexico. The nibs from the plant were ground into a paste and mixed with water to make a chocolaty drink. It was believed to have mystic qualities because of its energy boosting, mood enhancing, and sustenance providing capabilities.
The drink was then brought to the Aztecs whose famous leader, Montezuma II, would demand cacao beans from those he defeated. He would then drink numerous goblets of the chocolate drink in a display of power and opulence. In addition, he only allowed members of his military force to enjoy the drink. It was written by one Spanish observer that “This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”
The drink was then brought to Spain when the Aztecs were defeated by the Spanish Conquistador, Hernán Cortés. That’s when hot chocolate spread throughout Europe and eventually, the rest of the world.
Hot chocolate continued to be consumed in recent history by soldiers and explorers alike. The drink gives strength, sustenance, nutrients, and a strong boost of energy.
What may have started out as a drink only consumed by the nobles and militia men, has now become one of the most commonly consumed warm beverages throughout the world. Furthermore, the drink takes on different variations in various seasons and different countries.
- Italian–Italian hot chocolate is a lot thicker and richer than the regular kind.
- Mexican– the Mexican variation of this drink typically contains cinnamon, vanilla, sugar, and other earthy spices such as nutmeg.
- Other European Variations – in some European countries such as Poland and Belgium it is common to find warm milk given with a side of chocolate chunks. You mix them yourself and allow the chocolate to melt for a rich warm drink.
- Hot chocolate with Liqueur – one very common variation of the drink is its ‘adult version’. A shot of liqueur such as Bailey’s or Kahlua is added to give your hot drink a little punch.
- Holiday Variations – different holidays have different variations of the drink, too. For example, Candy Cane hot chocolate is quite popular during Christmas season. Pumpkin spice infused hot chocolate is commonly had during the fall and Thanksgiving season.
- High concentration of antioxidants – almost twice as much as what exists in a glass of red wine! Plus antioxidants are released better when hot.
- Less fat than a bar of chocolate
- Lots of flavonoids – these help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and increase the health of your heart.
- Improved concentration – according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science the high concentration of flavonoids improves oxygen and blood flow to your brain. This could help you think and concentrate better.
- Loaded with minerals –just one spoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains between 3 to 9 percent of the recommended daily intake for minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
- It’ll make you happy – within cocoa is found a substance called phenethylamine, which is a neurotransmitter that acts as a mood elevator and natural antidepressant
- May increase levels of serotonin –a study done by The University of Michigan Health System (UMIM) found that cocoa might increase levels of serotonin which is a neurotransmitter targeted by common antidepressants to increase overall happiness levels.
The next time you need a warm hug on a cold day, just remember that not only is hot chocolate sinfully delicious; it also happens to be incredibly good for you. This incredible drink has been consumed for thousands of years and has been revered for its many amazing effects and benefits. So curl up in front of the fire and hug a nice warm cup of best hot chocolate close to you as you relish in its warmth and deliciousness.