Sweet, rich and creamy, our well-loved hot chocolate has come a long way since its creation by the Mayans…

When the clouds contort in the sky like angry fumes, drowning the city in a rippling grey shroud, I drink hot chocolate; steaming glossy cocoa gold that closes the curtains against the wind and the rain and the gloom.

…I’ve always wondered why I put on so much weight living in Spain…

Working in Madrid as an au pair last year I encountered very few dark days. Whereas the London sky ritually shuns the world and casts grey over the city for at least one day a week, winter mornings in Spain broke resolutely crisp and golden.

However, despite the chirpy weather I would still drink my regular chocolate caliente, most of the time accompanied by a pile of sugary churros (I’ve always wondered why I put on so much weight living in Spain. I think I’ve just discovered the reason). Expanding waistline aside, the combination of hot chocolate and sugary fried dough was nothing short of delicious.

…chocolate gives comfort…

It was the Mayans who first came up with the idea of roasting and pounding cocoa beans with maize and chilli to create a spicy drink. In fact, while we might call a cup of hot chocolate ‘cocoa gold’, these guys actually meant it. Cocoa beans were so valuable that the Aztecs used them as currency, with 100 beans buying a slave – now doesn’t your stash of Lindt seem infinitely more precious?

The Spanish conquest to the Americas was a turning point for this bitter-sweet liquid. Firstly, the conquistadors added sugar and vanilla to the ground beans and made the revolutionary decision to serve the drink hot. Then, as the popularity of chocolate surged in Europe during the 17th century, milk was added. The result was a drink praised not only for its taste but also for its medicinal properties. Unfortunately, one of the few health benefits that can be universally agreed upon today is that given by the 17th century priest, Thomas Hurtado: ‘chocolate gives comfort’.  

…nothing brings comfort like a steaming cup of thick and rich Spanish chocolate caliente

It seems though, that hot chocolate is still undergoing a transformation; from the humble tub of Cadbury’s pushed to the back of the pantry shelf – a staple of any childhood – to the Heston style concoctions of chocolate heated with cream then spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, coriander and any other suitably exotic sounding spice. Although, be it posh or not, hot chocolate is glorious in any form. However, for me nothing brings comfort like a steaming cup of thick and rich Spanish chocolate caliente.

So if by chance you’re visiting Madrid when one of those grey and cold days descends upon the city, there is only one thing to do. Wonder the gloomy streets until you stumble upon a warm bar, or better still a chocolateria. Order un chocolate caliente (con churros if you’re feeling especially greedy) then, when your sweet cup of heaven arrives drink it quickly, whilst giving a brief word of thanks to the Mayan gods.


About The Author

I'm from the depths of the Norfolk countryside but am currently in my first year at UCL, studying History. To call me a 'foodie' would be a little bit of an understatement. In fact, I'm absolutely obsessed with all things edible....

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