Saturday, March 9, 2013

Recipe - Xocolatl, the Original Hot Chocolate

When chocolate was first created from cacao beans over two thousand years ago, it was in the form of a bitter beverage served hot or cold. The first form of solid chocolate wasn't created until the late 18th century. So for the majority of chocolate's existence in human culture, we've been drinking it.

The word "chocolate", according to Wikipedia, comes from Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. The word they used was "xocolatl", made up of the words "xococ" meaning bitter and "atl" meaning water or drink.

When I first began researching hot chocolate recipes, I came across some modern ones that attempted to recreate the flavor of those original hot chocolates created by the Aztecs and Mayans. As soon as I saw them, I knew I'd be making one! They sounded pretty bizarre for a hot chocolate.

Let's get started making a modern version of the original hot chocolate!

You're going to need:

2 3/4 cups water
1 green chile pepper, sliced
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Looking at that ingredient list, you can see we're working with the same basic stuff that would have been available two thousand years ago. Cocoa, vanilla, and pepper.

Put 3/4 cup of water and the sliced green chile (including the seeds) in a pot and bring it to boiling. Let it boil for 5-10 mins, so the water really takes on the chile flavor.

Strain it to remove the chile and the seeds, then put the water back in the pot. Add in the other 2 cups of water, put it on medium heat, and bring it to a boil again. As it's heating up, whisk in the vanilla extract. The vanilla mixed into the pepper water smells really good! I was surprised, I didn't think it would be very appetizing.

Finally, once it's boiling, add in the cocoa powder and keep whisking for another 5 minutes or so. You'll notice the mixture froths easily, but it's not a very thick froth.

This one is probably the healthiest hot chocolates you'll ever come across. No sugar at all, and the only thing even close to a sweetener is the vanilla. Unsweetened cocoa is actually very good for you. It has more antioxidants that green tea, blueberries, or wine, and can help lower cholesterol.

However, this hot chocolate isn't what us modern folk would consider delicious. It's not as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn't great, either. The chile adds an interesting flavor that works well with the cocoa, but this drink reminded me more of thin, bitter coffee than it did a thick, yummy hot chocolate.

Hahahaha, in fact, after a few tastes, I didn't even want to drink all of it. I added in a few spoonfuls of sugar and it became much more enjoyable! If you want to sweeten it without ruining the healthier aspect of it, try blackstrap molasses or date sugar. Those are both amazingly healthy sweeteners!

If you like this hot chocolate a lot, try it with the actual versions of the ingredients the Aztecs and Mayans would have used. Get some cocoa nibs and grind them up into cocoa liquor, and use a vanilla bean or two instead of the liquid vanilla extract.

What a fun experiment! And now that we have an idea of where hot chocolate came from, we can really appreciate what the Europeans did for it by adding in sweeteners in the 17th century.

And don't worry, the next recipe I post will be a sweet, delicious cup of creamy awesomeness!


  1. No reason to talk it Down. It sound delicious and interesting.

    1. Did you try it, Henrik? I'd love to hear what you think of it! I've been thinking of revisiting this one and trying to make it even more authentic now that I've read a lot of books on chocolate since I originally posted this.

  2. How would you modify the recipe to make it more authentic/original? I have read that they uses ground pochota seeds and even in Mexico and Central America I have been unable to find those.

  3. Hehe well, the reason why you didn't want to drink that much after is because your body was telling you you've taken enough iron and magnesium for the day, since cacao is the most iron-rich food :)