Hot Chocolate

A Very Brief History of Hot Chocolate

Before the British firm of Fry & Sons figured out how to make it into a candy bar in 1847, chocolate had been drunk as a beverage for thousands of years. Chocolate was first brought to Europe by Cortes, who toasted Montezuma with a golden goblet full of the Aztecs’ favorite libation before betraying and murdering their proud emperor.

However, it seems that the Spaniard liked Montezuma’s refreshment almost as much as he liked the golden mugs it was served in. Along with pillaged precious metals and gems, Cortes brought chocolate back to Spain, where the court of King Charles V quickly adopted it. The elite drank their chocolate boiled in wine, heavily spiced and sweetened, and served in deep, straight-sided cups for breakfast.

For centuries, Spain had a monopoly on this new elixir, but eventually the secret leaked out into the golden cups of all European monarchs, who began planting cocoa plantations wherever an area of fertile soil and the right climate could be colonized.

Chocolate remained all the rage until the industrial revolution brought forth a less decadent, business-oriented atmosphere, which was more suited to the stimulations of tea and coffee.

The mid-nineteenth century saw the innovation of cocoa powder (developed in Holland, hence the term Dutch-processed), which was much less rich and more soluble than chocolate. With it, the drink was relegated to the nursery, since it was digestible enough for children, and nourishing as well. A technique for making chocolate candy was perfected later that century, and chocolate’s identity, as a food rather than a beverage, was sealed.

by Melissa Clark

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