One of the traditions of Winter is skiing. Whether it’s at Aspen, Vail, Mammoth Lakes, or other resorts here in the U.S. or the really challenging slopes of the Swiss/Italian/German/Austrian Alps. And then there are the related traditions of the signing of the cast on your broken leg and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa in front of the ski lodge fire. (By the way, I have never done any of the above, although I am quite the hot cocoa fan.) Fortunately for us non-skiers, hot cocoa can be enjoyed anywhere and tends to be the perfect thing for your Winter moments.
History of Cocoa
Cocoa has been around a long time. The Mayans used it as a ritual beverage, especially for betrothal and marriage. The Spaniards who landed in South America were introduced to this drink and kept it secret to themselves for almost a century. France got a hold of this secret in the 1600s, just as the Dutch were bringing tea to Europe. Chocolate spread to England in the 1700s, and soon chocolate houses were everywhere as well as tearooms. Other European countries caught on to the craze, making all kinds of confections that were more affordable. Today, cocoa consumption worldwide is over 3 million tons, and not all of it is served hot in a mug. Which brings us to an important distinction.
Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate
Basically, hot cocoa consists of cocoa powder (pressed chocolate containing none of the ingredients that give it a rich flavor, such as cocoa butter). You add fat in if you use whole milk when making your hot cocoa, or else you will get a very thin flavor. Hot chocolate is quite different. You melt chocolate bars into cream, creating a drink that is rich, decadent, and very flavorful. Hot chocolate started out with the Mayans as ground cocoa beans, water, wine, and chili peppers. The Spaniards started heating this mix and adding sugar to sweeten it. In England, they began adding milk and serving it after dinner.
Chocolate and Your Health
You may be fleeing in horror from the very thought of chocolate, but in actuality it has been credited with a number of health benefits over the years. In fact, Europeans from the 16th to the 20th century used it to cure things like fevers, dysentery, being too thin (really!), constipation, stomach disorders, chest ailments, tuberculosis, bad complexions, and mental disorders. It was also considered quite the aphrodisiac.
No matter whether you drink hot cocoa or hot chocolate and no matter the reason, make it your special Winter moment, holding the warm mug in your hands and savoring every sweet drop. And getting that whipped cream on top on your nose. Enjoy!
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