Xocōlātl & Champurrado: The OG Hot Chocolates
What do you think of when you think of Hot Cocoa? Hallmark movies? Marshmallows? Chocolatey creamy goodness? All of this might be true now, but the original hot chocolate was served cool and mightily bitter. And no- it’s not a magical elixir that comes to life whenever the first snow falls, its origins are set in line with the time-honored medicinal and religious traditions of the Aztec, Olmec, and Mayan cultures of Central America.
Xocōlātl translates to chocolate and the origins of Champorrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate) are thought to be from around 500 BC (or perhaps even earlier), Aztecs and Maya were making a paste out of roasted and ground cocoa beans, corn flower (or maza), spices like vanilla, and sometimes chili peppers. They would then add water and pour the mixture back and forth between cups until frothy. No sugar. No marshmallows. Served cool. Even then, cocoa was considered a luxury. It was only enjoyed by the privileged and was not necessarily part of the average person’s diet. It was held in high respect and given as gifts on important occasions or used to trade and barter.
It is said that Chocolate has more antioxidants than both red wine and green tea and even more when it’s heated. When chocolate finally arrived in France in the 1600s, it was said to also reduce temper tantrums and crankiness. We know we feel better after a Mexican Hot Chocolate using our Mexican Chocolate Bitters…so that checks out.
Today in Mexico, and elsewhere the surprisingly refreshing and frothy Champorrado is enjoyed any day of the week for breakfast or early supper and during special holidays such as during Christmastime or Dia de los Muertos *(day of the dead). It remains a drink of ritual, but has also become a drink of comfort and family tradition. It made with special chocolate tablets called "table chocolate" which are made with cacao paste, sugar, and spices, and has a grainer texture than milk or baking chocolate.
At Hella, we approach every ingredient with reverence for its story, and the same is true when it comes to recipes. So enjoy your chocolate today however you take it and don’t forget that every recipe we know and love has an origin worth getting curious about.