"Cocoa. They tell me the remedy is particularly good"

Hot chocolate drink with chocolate flakes
Creative Commons AttributionHot chocolate drink with chocolate flakes - Credit: Itisdacurlz
Cocoa, or hot chocolate, was invented as a drink by the Mayans around 2,000 years ago and was an important part of the Aztec culture. It was brought to Europe by Spanish settlers in the 16th century and became a fashionable drink throughout the courts of Europe and a very valuable luxury. Originally very bitter, sweet hot chocolate was first discovered in the 17th century, and a recipe using milk mixed with chocolate was introduced by the late 1600s. It was, however, not until 1828 that it became a readily available commodity, when Coenraad Johannes van Houten developed the first cocoa powder machine in the Netherlands. The powder was easier to mix with milk or water and sugar and also led to the production of solid chocolate bars. This was also when the name ‘cocoa’ came into regular usage: previously, the drink had been known as ‘chocolate’ but this was now reserved for the solid bar.

Traditionally there were always health benefits associated with drinking hot chocolate – amongst those claimed were help for fever, liver disease and chest ailments. The French also put about that cocoa could help limit anger, bad moods or nerves. Today it is suggested that the high level of anti-oxidants in cocoa may help fight cancer, but equally, some hot chocolate recipes require a lot of sugar which can have a negative effect as well.

Try a classic hot chocolate recipe here.