A week and a half into advent and I have become so accustomed to waking up to a chocolate from my calendar I am beginning to wonder how I manage without chocolate everyday for the rest of the year (ok, I probably don’t).
Whilst in Bruges we visited Choco-Story and learnt the history of this seasonal (daily) staple. The whole life of chocolate is fascinating. Summarising massively here is a short and sweet recap, for more information there is a long article here (which I relied on very heavily for this post).
The first evidence of chocolate was over 3000 years ago in Mesoamerica. As well as using it as a drink mixed with chilli, vanilla and spices the beans were used as currency. 100 beans would buy you a turkey, 3 an avocado.
In the 16th Century Spanish conquistadors exploring South America were introduced the the brown bitter drink, and eventually brought it back it Europe. The Europeans offset the harsh taste sugar cane was was added, and replaced the chilli with cinnamon, which brought it closer to the sweet that we recognise today.
Between the laborious process to create the drink and the cost of importing the beans only the rich of Europe could enjoy chocolate. To keep up with the demand Spanish armies enslaved the Mesoamericans to produce cacao.
In 1657 the first chocolate house opened in England, which was quickly followed by a succession of similar establishments. The Industrial revolution evolved the way that cocoa was treated and allowed for the possibility of mass production.
Johannes van Houton developed a process for removing the fat from from the cocoa beans which left cocoa powder and cocoa butter. He also discovered that when treated with alkali the cocoa lost some of its bitter taste (known as the Dutch process).
Mixing the processed cocoa products with sugar and goat milk J. S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar in Britain in 1847 (followed by Cadbury 2 years later).
Whenever I think of chocolate I think of bars wrapped in foil, but that barely accounts for 5% of chocolate’s history. Intrigued by it’s origins, and in possession of one of Willie’s Cacao’s 100% chocolate bars, I whipped up a batch of traditional hot chocolate.
This recipe doesn’t call for any dairy, the melted cocoa butter alone gives it it’s milky texture. The flavour is strong and bitter, more similar in taste to an espresso than your average hot chocolate.
The spice of the chilli leaves a warm hum in your mouth long after it’s cooled from the hot beverage. Other common additions to this drink include, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves, whilst I might experiment with these in the future I wanted to try something simpler so I could appreciate the flavours of the cacao. A word of warning: cacao is a stimulant, after drinking a cup of this I felt more energised than after my usual morning coffee!
Chilli Hot Chocolate
25g 100% cocoa grated
100ml boiling water
1/2 red chilli sliced
2 tbsp honey
Put all the ingredients into a pan and gently warm until the cocoa has melted.
Strain into 2 espresso mugs.