The history of hot cocoa goes back a few thousand years to the early Classic period (460-480AD) of the Mayan civilization. According to Wikipedia to make the chocolate drink, which was served cold, the Maya ground cocoa seeds into a paste and mixed it with water, cornmeal, chili peppers, and other ingredients.They then poured the drink back and forth from a cup to a pot until a thick foam developed. Chocolate was available to Maya of all social classes, although the wealthy drank chocolate from elaborately decorated vessels,
The introduction of cocoa beans and chocolate drink to Europe came in 1528 when Cortes returned to Spain and brought back the idea of making a drink out of cocoa beans. After the introduction to Europe, the drink slowly gained popularity, but the drink remained very expensive in Europe because the cocoa beans only grew in South America.
Sweet-tasting hot chocolate was then invented, leading hot chocolate to become a luxury item among the European nobility by the 17th century. Then, as the technology to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa seeds was introduced, solid chocolate was introduced with added sugar and milk powder.
Well, what is your favorite way to make hot chocolate? My favorite is when there is real melted chocolate with some spices included to add a little kick. Here is an excellent recipe of spicy hot chocolate, thick, chocolaty and a little spicy with hot pepper flakes and cinnamon.
When we were in Italy, we got to enjoy hot chocolate as it should be, at any outdoor café we could find. Thick melted chocolate, with hot milk on the side, slowly added to make an irresistibly rich drink. If you are in the Princeton, NJ area, the bent spoon, artisan ice cream shop also serve a European style hot chocolate. I highly recommend it before the season is over!
Picture from the New York Times, spicy hot chocolate recipe