Around the World in 80 Plates, Recipes

Around the World in 80 Plates: Aztec Empire // Hot Chocolate

Captain Create is hitting the history books this week to learn about a cold weather favorite: HOT CHOCOLATE!

Historians agree that the Maya, and later the Aztec, were the first groups of people to use chocolate in a drink, although their xocōlātl [Aztec word: xococ (bitter) and atl (water)]1 was very different from the hot cocoa and hot chocolate we drink today. Since recipes for drinking chocolate have been around for nearly 3,000 years, its understandable that the recipe has changed a lot from the first one! How much has it changed? Read on!

The Maya people cultivated the trees and harvested the cacao pods that contain cocoa nibs from trees that thrive in what is now Central Mexico, and they used in a bitter and spicy drink that was made with hot water, unsweetened cacao, and spicy chiles. The Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortez took samples of cocoa from the Aztec Empire to King Charles of Spain in 1528, 1 and it was quickly popular among the wealthy class in Spain, and spread across Europe. The popularity of chocolate led to many wealthy Europeans starting plantations in regions where cocoa trees could grow; They don’t grow as far north as European countries like Spain, France, or England. Since it was hard to get things shipped from South American or the Gold Coast of Africa, chocolate in any form was really really expensive!2

As it became less and less life threatening to travel around the world, transportation and production of chocolate became easier, and now chocolate in many forms is available to nearly everyone whenever we need it. Baking with chocolate, snacking on chocolate, and drinking hot chocolate (and cold chocolate milk!) is easy to do these days.

Did you know that hot chocolate and hot cocoa are not the same?

Hot chocolate is made from a bar of chocolate, and contains the cocoa butter that is part of the cacao plant, as well as the milk, sugar, and vanilla that gets added to a chocolate bar. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which has been processed differently than a bar of chocolate and does not have the cocoa butter in it, but store-bought hot cocoa mix usually has a lot of sugar added to it. Cocoa powder by itself is really bitter, and lives up the its Aztec name!

Want to make some hot cocoa mix that doesn’t have all that added sugar? Captain Create has a recipe for you!

Feel free to print this and fasten it to the container you use for your hot cocoa mix; The recipe will be right there next time you need to make more!

1- Montagna, Maria Teresa, et al. “Chocolate, ‘Food of the Gods’: History, Science, and Human Health.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 16, no. 24, 2019, p. 4960.,


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