Week 1 - Mexican Hot Chocolate
This week we learned about Mexican Hot Chocolate, a frothy cup-full of ancient ingredients and traditions enjoyed by families just like yours all over Mexico.
Chocolate comes from Mexico!
Every time you enjoy a taste of something chocolaty, you can thank the ancient Mesoamericans! Mesoamerica is the name given to the civilizations in the Americas before the Europeans came. People in what is now the southern part of Mexico harvested and enjoyed chocolate for thousands of years before Christopher Columbus was born!
The Drink of Emperors
Emperor Montezuma, the Aztec leader when the Spaniards first arrived in Mexico, reportedly drank chocolate many times a day each day. But his chocolate drink was a little different from modern Mexican Hot Chocolate. It was served cold, and made with hot chiles and water instead of milk - and no sugar! Chocolate was a special drink reserved for Emperor Montezuma, not for regular people.
Modern Mexican Chocolate
Today, hot chocolate is a drink for everyone! When Mexicans make hot chocolate, they usually use a store-bought package. It's a solid disk of chocolate, not a powedered mix like we often use in the United States.
We started our class this week with a chocolate taste test. Kids got to nibble a sample of three brands of Mexican drinking chocolate: Ibarra, Abuelita and Taza.
There are a couple characteristic features of drinking chocolate that tell you it's Mexican. When you nibble on a piece, you'll notice the texture is grainy. This is because of the way it is processed. Mexican chocolate is only processed to the "liquor" stage, which means the cacao beans (what chocolate comes from) have been ground and melted, but not yet processed into a smooth consistency.
The other thing you'll notice about Mexican drinking chocolate is that it is made with cinnamon. The flavor of cinnamon in hot chocolate gives it a distinctive taste that tells you you're drinking Mexican chocolate.
In the Adventure Kitchen, we've tried the brands of Mexican chocolate that are available in American grocery stores. Read below for our thoughts about each.
Ibarra is made in Mexico, with simple ingredients: sugar, cocoa liquor (grainy, ground cacao beans), soy lecithin and cinnamon flavor.
Since ingredients are listed in order of quantity, this means there is more sugar than anything else in this brand - including chocolate! And as you might expect, it tastes extremely sweet to us.
The other thing to note is that this brand uses cinnamon flavor instead of actual cinnamon. However, all in all, if you are looking for a brand of Mexican chocolate that is actually made in Mexico and is used in Mexican homes, Ibarra seems to us to be a decent choice (we've provided a link to our recipe at the bottom of this page).
Although Abuelita is a beloved Mexican brand, it is now owned by Nestle, a Swiss company. Sadly, the company has chosen to cheapen the ingredients. The product contains artificial flavors, vegetable oil and the chemical emulsifier PGPR, all of which are used by companies to hide the fact that they are using poor-quality chocolate.
As in Ibarra, the first ingredient is sugar, and to our palate Abuelita is also extremely sweet.
Because of all the artificial and cheap ingredients, we can't recommend Abuelita.
Taza is an American company in Massachusetts. They import organic cacao beans from Mexico and grind them up themselves. Chocolate (cacao beans) is the first ingredient! The only other ingredients are organic sugar and real organic cinnamon, not cinnamon flavor. The product is also labeled "Direct Trade," which is similar to fair trade (click here to read more about this on the Taza website).
We think Taza tastes great, and we feel good about recommending these ingredients (we've provided a link to the recipe at the bottom of this page). However, given all the organic, high quality ingredients, the cost is about $1.50 per cup! That's a little steep for most of us to drink very often, so we've created our own recipe for Homemade Mexican Hot Chocolate (link provided at the bottom of this page).
Bate, Bate, Chocolate!
Mexican children love hot chocolate! But they don't top theirs with whipped cream or mini-marshmallows. Mexican hot chocolate is served with froth on top. Similar to a latte or cappucino, the froth is the result of whipping milk into a thick, bubbly foam.
While Mexican children wait for their grownup to whip up the froth before serving their hot chocolate, they chant “bate, bate chocolate!” which means “whip, whip the chocolate!”
Below are the words to the whole chant. Remember, there is no silent e in Spanish, so “bate” is pronounced bah-teh, and “chocolate” should have 4 syllables and sound like this: chō-cō-lah-teh.
Bate, bate chocolate (whip, whip the chocolate)
Tu nariz de cacahuate (your nose is a peanut)
Uno, dos, tres – chō!
Uno, dos, tres – cō!
Uno, dos, tres – la!
Uno, dos, tres – te!
Bate, bate chocolate
Bate, bate chocolate
Bate, bate, bate, bate
Bate, bate, chocolate!