Where Did Hot Chocolate Come From?

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Where Did Hot Chocolate Come From?

Vector illustration.

Vector illustration.

Getty Images

Vector illustration.

Getty Images

Getty Images

Vector illustration.

Charles Su, Staff Writer

Hot chocolate is a drink that is a life-saver during cold days or something that complements a dessert. Freshman Emily Fang voiced her opinion, stating that “This drink is great in general, but is especially great during winter as it’s a hearty and warm drink.” As Americans, we are used to the powdered version that is often sold by Nestle and Swiss Miss, but Europeans usually drink a thicker version that even has cornstarch. Though the history and evolution of hot chocolate might interest you as it has uncanny origins, starting from the Mayans.

Before the age of European expeditions in the Americas, the Mayans had access to the previously unknown cocoa beans. The drink was founded by the Mayans in 900 A.D and earned the nickname Bitter Water.  In South America, there was a lack of sugar, and the Mayans substituted sugar with chili peppers. The original ingredients consisted of water, cornmeal, pepper seeds, and sometimes vanilla beans or grounded flowers. This version of hot chocolate was always drunk hot, and because of the lack of sweeteners, it was often described as bitter. The drink was drunk by all classes and was often an after-dinner drink that all Mesoamericans preferred foamy. One interesting use this drink saw was in the religion of the Aztecs, as chocolate was a divine, liquid and cocoa beans symbolized the human heart. Eagle and Jaguar knights, the elite of the Aztec army, were served this drink after undergoing an intense recruitment process.

After the Spanish arrived, they were fond of the drink and brought it back to Europe. They added sugar and milk, with others experimenting with its taste, while the upper classes often drank this beverage at dedicated chocolate houses (basically a coffee shop for hot chocolate). Each parliamentary party in England had their own chocolate house and became clubs where men could gamble, discuss daily issues, and sip on the delicious beverage. Sophomore Kevin Sugiyama said, “It’s crazy to think that a drink so common today was a luxury back then.” This drink was enjoyed by many, even explorers of the North and South Poles, for example, Robert Scott’s expedition team would drink hot chocolate five nights a week. American explorer Will Steger spent almost 220 days traversing Antarctica with five others and drank nearly 2,070 cups of Swiss Miss.

Hot chocolate was also seen commonly in army rations, even since the revolutionary war. Soldiers’ of the continental army would combine chocolate with cakes and then cut pieces into boiling water. During the Vietnam war, soldiers received rations that contained a packet of hot cocoa, and soldiers would often trade cigarettes for packets of powdered hot chocolate.

To this day hot chocolate is an iconic drink and loved dearly by many. It is, at least in my opinion, especially an associated drink with the winter holidays. So the next time you’re enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, take a moment to appreciate the unique history behind it.

Graphic courtesy of ISTOCK.COM