With winter practically at our doorstep, a lot of people will keep warm by enjoying their favourite hot beverage: Hot chocolate. But that sweet, chocolatey drink that you press against your chest on chilly days has quite some history behind it. Here’s a bit of hot chocolate trivia to brew on.
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It’s Thousands of Years Old
Long before bars and brownies were mankind’s snack of choice, chocolate was enjoyed in liquid form. According to historians, the Olmecs of southern Mexico were the first civilisation to roast cacao fruit, before grinding it, and mixing the powder with water and other ingredients. Some of the Olmec pottery discovered by archaeologists dates back to 1700 BCE and contains traces of chocolate.
It Wasn’t Always Hot…Or Sweet
The Mayans and Aztecs picked up the brewing method from the Olmecs and used it to create a bitter drink they called xocoatl. The brew was typically made with chillies, water, toasted corn, and lukewarm water. When the brew made its way to Spain, it was sweetened with cinnamon and sugar. It was a step in the right direction, but the drink was still nothing like the hot chocolate of today.
It Kept Polar Explorers Going
British explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, and his team lived on hot cocoa and stew during their yearlong journey to the South Pole. The crew made it to the South Pole in January 1912, only to find that a crew from Norway had landed there a month before them. More than 70 years later, in 1989, a six-man crew travelling on sledge dogs consumed more than 2 000 packets of hot cocoa on their expedition.
It Got the Pope’s Attention
As chocolate drinks grew in popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries, people wanted to know whether it was a food or drink. Providing clarity on the matter would dictate whether Roman Catholics could drink during periods of fasting, which occurred regularly throughout the year. Pope Gregory XIII (1572 – 1588) had to step in, and gave hot chocolate the thumbs up for fasting.
It Was Believed to Have Healing Properties
The pure cacao drink that served as the basis for modern-day hot chocolate was packed with calories and antioxidants. It also delivered a caffeine kick like no other, which is probably why earlier civilisations thought it had healing properties. Montezuma II, the ninth Aztec emperor of Mexico, was rumoured to drink up to 50 cups a day.
Hot chocolate has come a long way. Regardless of the bitter taste the earlier version left in a lot of people’s mouths, they knew they were on to something. And while a lot of people still make their own, the best hot chocolate comes from people who pride themselves in making the best version of this winter dessert-drink. So next time you feel like treating yourself to some hot chocolate, look no further than Milky Lane. Whether you prefer yours plain or dripping with delectable syrup and chocolate sauce, there’s a sweet treat for everyone.