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Hot chocolate (also known as hot cocoa, drinking chocolate, or just cocoa) is a heated beverage that typically consists of shaved chocolate or cocoa
powder, heated milk or water, and sugar. While hot chocolate is generally thought of as a drink consumed for pleasure, recent studies have suggested that
hot chocolate possesses health benefits due to antioxidants that can be found in cocoa. Until the 19th century, hot chocolate was even used medicinally to
treat ailments such as stomach diseases.
Hot Chocolate Around The World
The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayan peoples around 2000 years ago, and a cocoa beverage was an essential part of
Aztec culture by 1400 A.D. The beverage became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World, and has undergone multiple
changes since then. Today, hot chocolate is consumed throughout the world and comes in multiple variations including the very thick cioccolata densa
served in Italy, and the thinner hot cocoa that is typically consumed in the United States.
Americans have come to use the terms "hot chocolate" and "hot cocoa" interchangeably, obscuring the considerable difference between the two. "Hot cocoa"
is made from powder made by extracting most of the rich cocoa butter from the ground cacao beans. "Hot chocolate," on the other hand, is made directly from
bar chocolate, which already contains cocoa, sugar and cocoa butter. Thus the major difference between the two is the cocoa butter, which makes hot cocoa
significantly lower in fat than hot chocolate, while still preserving all the intrinsic health-giving properties of chocolate.
Hot chocolate can be made with dark, semisweet, or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces and stirred into milk with the addition of sugar.
American hot cocoa powder often includes powdered milk or other dairy ingredients so it can be made without using milk. In the United Kingdom, "hot
chocolate" is a sweet chocolate drink made with hot milk or water, and powder containing chocolate, sugar, and powdered milk. "Cocoa" usually refers to a
similar drink made with just hot milk and cocoa powder, then sweetened to taste with sugar.
In mainland Europe, most forms of hot chocolate are very thick due to being made directly from chocolate. In the United Kingdom, however, hot chocolate is
often of the thinner variety. Some types of powdered chocolate drinks in the UK are actually as thick as pure chocolate varieties. As Europe was where hot
chocolate was first popularized, many different forms exist.
Among the multiple thick forms of hot chocolate served in Europe is the Italian cioccolata densa. German variations are also known for being very thick and
heavy. Hot chocolate and churros is the traditional working-man's breakfast in Spain. This style of hot chocolate can be extremely thick, often having the
consistency of warm chocolate pudding. In the Netherlands, hot chocolate is a very popular drink, known as chocolademelk, often served at home or at the
cafes. In France, hot chocolate is often served at breakfast time, and sometimes sliced French bread or croissants, spread with butter, jam, honey or Nutella
are dunked into the hot chocolate; there are also brands of hot chocolate specially formulated for breakfast time, notably Banania.
Even further variations exist. In some cafes in Belgium and other areas in Europe, one who orders a "warme chocolade" or "chocolat chaud" would receive a
cup of steamed white milk and a small bowl of bittersweet chocolate chips to dissolve in the milk.
Potential Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate
While hot chocolate is generally consumed for pleasure, there are several potential health benefits associated with drinking hot chocolate. Studies have
shown that hot chocolate contains large amounts of antioxidants that may be beneficial to one's health. From the 16th to 19th centuries, hot chocolate was
valued as a medicine as well as a drink. The explorer Francisco Hernández wrote that chocolate beverages helped treat fever and liver disease. Another
explorer, Santiago de Valverde Turices, believed that large amounts of hot chocolate was helpful in treating chest ailments, but in smaller amounts could help
stomach disorders.When chocolate was introduced to the French in the 17th century, it was reportedly used "to fight against fits of anger and bad moods",
which may be attributed to chocolate's phenylethylamine content. Today, hot chocolate is consumed for pleasure rather than medicinally, but new research
suggests that there may be other health benefits attributed to the drink.
The process for making Dutch cocoa was developed in 1828 by Coenraad Johanness van Houten, the same man who developed a hydraulic press for
separating cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The development of the hydraulic press revolutionized chocolate production, allowing chocolate companies to
re-blend various amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa solids to create things like eating chocolate. This Dutch inventor realized that the fundamental character
of cocoa changed in several ways when an alkali was produced, and the resulting cocoa could be used to make chocolate or sold as cocoa for drinking and
In addition to lowering the acidity of the cocoa, Dutching also makes it much more soluble, which is a great advantage for cooks. In addition, Dutched cocoa
tends to be much darker in color, with a milder flavor. A few famous brands of Dutch cocoa is Callebaut and Valrhona, although several other producers make
their own versions, and in all cases, their products have a distinctive mild flavor which some people greatly enjoy.
Because Dutch cocoa has been neutralized, it will not react with baking soda in recipes. As a result, when it is used instead of unprocessed cocoa in a
recipe, the recipe will fail to form as expected, and the resulting product may be flat or very dry. If a recipe does not specify which kind of cocoa should be
used, look for the presence of other acidic ingredients; if there are no other sources of acidity, the recipe needs unprocessed cocoa.
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Interesting Facts About Hot Chocolate