Posted in Kafevend Blog
It seems only natural that we end our little series on cocoa with some of the ways we can enjoy this great drink. Even if you aren't keen on the traditional cocoa powder and milk from the microwave, hopefully there's a way presented here that will kindle- or indeed rekindle- your interest.
The cocoa powder we use in our drinks is a relatively new invention when you consider how long cocoa beans have been used to make drinks. The Dutchman Casparus van Houten Sr. devised a way of separating cocoa butter and cocoa solids by using a hydraulic press in 1828. His son Coenraad later came up with Dutch process cocoa, where the cocoa solids are treated with alkaline salts. This reduces their acidity and bitterness, improving the taste, and also made the solids more water soluble- a desirable trait all these years later. No doubt at some point in your life you've struggled with varieties of cocoa powder that just refuse to mix in! Plenty of brands of cocoa powder designed for drinking will include a (un)healthy dose of sugar; if you're trying to avoid the stuff, it's worth checking up on the ingredients.
In Mexico where cocoa has been used for a long time by people such as the Aztecs, and Mayans before them, cocoa is used to make a drink known as champurrado. It is a fairly rich and substantial drink, more suited to keeping you going through a long working day on a field than treating yourself to in the evening. The drink is a type of atole, which uses either corn flour or a form of dough as its base. Mixed with this are varying ratios of milk and/or water as well as chocolate and unrefined cane sugar, along with spices like anise, vanilla, chilli and cinnamon. Using a molinillo, a tool first used by the ancient Mesoamerican civilizations, the drink is frothed up. Depending on where you go and who makes it, the consistency can vary from watery all the way to a thick porridge.
Given their role in bringing cocoa to Europe, it seems only right we have a look at how the Spanish made their version of the drink. The cold, bitter and spicy version the conquistadors encountered in the New World was not very palatable to a country used to sugar. When they brought it back to Spain, it didn't take them long to add that sugar to the mix. The Spanish are also held to be the first to have heated their cocoa drinks. Another trait common to their drinks was the thickness. By adding cornflour or even an egg, the Spanish would thicken their drinks enough that you could stand a spoon in it (apparently) with an almost mousse-like consistency. The Spanish still enjoy hot cocoa in much the same form today, often as an early morning breakfast of churros and chocolate: star-cross sectioned doughnuts made in lengths alongside a thick mug of cocoa. Sounds pretty good!