Hot Chocolate

23 12 2011

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

Hot chocolate (also known as hot cocoa or just cocoa or chocolate milk or cafe au Chocolat in French) is a heated beverage typically consisting of shaved chocolate, melted chocolate or cocoa powder, heated milk or water, and sugarDrinking chocolate is similar to hot chocolate, but is made from melted chocolate shavings or paste, rather than a powdered mix that is soluble in water, and is usually not as sweet.

The first chocolate beverage is believed to have been created by the Mayas around 2,000 years ago, and a cocoa beverage was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD.  The beverage became popular in Europe after being introduced from Mexico in the New World, and has undergone multiple changes since then. Until the 19th century, hot chocolate was even used medicinally to treat ailments such as stomach diseases. Today, hot chocolate is consumed throughout the world and comes in multiple variations including the very thick cioccolata densaserved in Italy, and the thinner hot cocoa that is typically consumed in the United States.

History

An early Classic (460-480 AD) period Mayan tomb from the site of Rio Azul, Guatemala, had vessels with the Maya glyph for cacao on them with residue of a chocolate drink.

To make the chocolate drink, which was served cold, the Maya ground cocoa seeds into a paste, and mixed it with watercornmealchilli peppers and other ingredients.  They then poured the drink back and forth from a cup to a pot until a thick foam developed. Chocolate was available to Maya of all social classes, although the wealthy drank chocolate from elaborately decorated vessels. 

What the Spaniards then called “chocolatl” was said to be a beverage consisting of a chocolate base flavored with vanilla and other spices that was served cold.  Montezuma’s court reportedly drank about 2,000 cups of xocolatl per day, 50 of which were consumed by Montezuma himself.

Because sugar was yet to come to the Americas, xocolatl was said to be an acquired taste. The drink tasted spicy and bitter, unlike modern hot chocolate, which is typically sweet. As to when xocolatl was first served hot, sources conflict on when and by whom. However, Jose de Acosta, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who lived in Peru and then Mexico in the later 16th century, described xocolatl as:

Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women, that are accustomed to the country, are very greedy of this Chocolate. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that “chili”; yea, they make paste thereof, the which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh.

Usage

Today, hot chocolate in the form of drinking chocolate or cocoa is considered a comfort food and is widely consumed in many parts of the world.

North America

Traditional Spanish hot chocolate served with churros

In the United States, the drink is popular in instant form, made with hot water or milk from a packet containing mostly cocoa powder, sugar, and dry milk.  This is the thinner of the two main variations.  It is very sweet and may be topped with marshmallowswhipped cream, or a piece of solid chocolate[citation needed]. Hot chocolate was first brought to North America as early as the 17th century by the Dutch, but the first time colonists began selling hot chocolate was around 1755.  Traditionally, hot chocolate has been associated with cold weather, winter, and dessert in the United States, and is now rarely drunk with meals.

In Mexico, hot chocolate remains a popular national drink. Besides the instant powder form, traditional Mexican hot chocolate includes semi-sweet chocolate, cinnamon, sugar and vanilla. Hot chocolate of this type is commonly sold in circular or hexagonal tablets which can be dissolved into hot milk, water or cream, then blended until the mixture develops a creamy froth. Mexican cinnamon hot chocolate is traditionally served alongside a variety of Mexican pastries known as pan dulce and in Spain with churros.

Europe

Hot chocolate is called warme chocolademelk in the Netherlands.

In mainland Europe (and particularly Spain and Italy), hot chocolate is sometimes served very thick due to the use of a thickening agent such as corn starch. 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 andchurros 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, notablyBanania.

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.  Particularly rich hot chocolate is often served in demitasse cups.

Health

While hot chocolate is generally consumed for pleasure, there are several potential health benefits associated with drinking hot chocolate. A 2003 study from Cornell University found that cocoa contains large amounts of antioxidants that may help prevent cancer.  Also, the Cocoa Bean has demonstrated evidence that it helps with digestion.  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’sphenylethylamine 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.

On the other hand, several negative effects can be attributed to drinking hot chocolate. Hot chocolate contains high amounts of sugar.

Risks

Several negative effects may be attributed to the drinking of hot chocolate. The types and severity of health risks vary between different styles of hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate made from milk also contains the sugars naturally found in milk. Processed cocoa powder usually contains additional sugars.  Some brands also contain hydrogenated oils and fats, the most common of which are coconut derivatives.

The very small amount of caffeine found in cocoa may also be a concern, though a typical eight ounce cup of hot chocolate contains nine milligrams of caffeine, while an eight ounce cup of coffee may contain up to 133 milligrams depending on the brand. As such, caffeine is not a major health concern associated with hot chocolate.

To read the entire article please go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_chocolate

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