Hot Chocolate. Or is it Cocoa?

It’s chilly at night; we’re bundled up in our houses. If ever there was a time for hot chocolate.. or is it cocoa? What’s the difference?


While both can be deliciously warming, hot cocoa is made from ground, roasted cocoa beans with sugar, while hot chocolate is created from full chocolate – with its delicious cocoa butter intact. In a true hot chocolate – also known as ‘drinking’ or ‘sipping’ chocolate – the chocolate is chopped or shaved then melted into cream, milk or water. Add sugar or spices as you see fit, and settle in for the chocolate swoon.

Now, to jumble the cocoa versus chocolate distinction: some aficionados do include a dash of cocoa powder in their sipping chocolate…



While 20th Century researchers analyze chocolate’s effects on the reward centres of the brain, the strategic use of cacao dates back centuries. In Chan Kom, Yucatan, Mexico, the groom’s family offered the parents of the bride x-taan chucua – a drink made from powdered cacao pounded into water with corn meal before it was strained and blended with cinnamon and Tabasco pepper.

Back in 18th Century France, Louis XV and his mistresses looked to hot chocolate for an aphrodisiac boost. In 1755, French cookbook scribe Menon captured this Louis’ recipe.

‘Place an equal number of bars of chocolate and cups of water in a cafetière and boil on a low heat for a short while; when you are ready to serve, add one egg yolk for four cups and stir over a low heat without allowing to boil. It is better if prepared a day in advance. Those who drink it every day should leave a small amount as flavouring for those who prepare it the next day. Instead of an egg yolk one can add a beaten egg white after having removed the top layer of froth. Mix in a small amount of chocolate from the cafetière then add to the cafetière and finish as with the egg yolk.’



The chocolate-mad Marie Antoinette took it one step further by creating a new position for court: Chocolate Maker to the Queen. Sulpice Debauve, a pharmacist by training, served Antoinette and Louis XVI. He was later designated Chocolatier to First Consul Napoleon Bonaporte.

Marie Antoinette would start her morning with a decadent hot chocolate – sometimes infused with cinnamon – and served in a dainty porcelain cup. Her silver chocolatière service was created in 1787 by Jean-Pierre Charpanet and personalized with her initials. This morning chocolate set boasted one hundred items crafted from silver, porcelain, ebony, ivory, steel and crystal.

The Queen’s chocolate dining did not end at breakfast. Her Chocolate Maker, Sulpice Debauve, concocted special recipes that included chocolate and sweet almond to ease her digestion, chocolate and orange blossoms to reduce her anxiety and chocolate and orchid bulbs to restore her vigor. Marie Antoinette despised taking medicine, so Monsieur Debauve devised chocolate coins – The Queen’s Coins or Pistoles – emblazoned with the royal crest to distract her tastebuds.



Like the French Queen, Dr. Francisco Hernandez – Royal Physician to Philip II of Spain – placed great faith in the power of Hot Chocolate. He used it to treat fever, liver disorders, intestinal pain, colic and even poisons. ‘When pepper was added,’ Hernandez said, ‘it had an agreeable taste and warmed the stomach and perfumed the breath.’

With his physician-botany training, Hernandez created his own 16thCentury hot chocolate recipe.

The Hot Chocolate of Hernandez

• roast cocoa beans
• vanilla
• ear flower
• corn
• sapotilla kernels
• black pepper
• capsicum peppers
• pimenta
• honey
• achiote


Header: Monika Grabkowska



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Elizabeth Newton

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