The Surprisingly Manly History of Hot Cocoa

by Brett & Kate McKay on December 17, 2012 · 47 comments

in Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

‘Tis the season for hot cocoa.

At least it is for red-cheeked children who are looking to warm up after coming in from a well-spent snow day.

And for lady folk curled up in a blanket watching The Shop Around the Corner.

But a man, he’s sitting by the fire in his leather chair, drinking a properly manly drink like black coffee, or scotch, perhaps.

Such is the perception of cocoa these days. It is but a sweet confection a man might drink a few times each year, if at all.

For thousands of years, however, it was quite a different story. While we tend to think of chocolate today in its solid form, for nine-tenths of its long history, chocolate was a drink – the first true chocolate bar as we now know it was not invented until 1839. In the thousands of years before that time, chocolate was seen as an invaluable, sacred, even magical beverage — a symbol of power, a privilege of warriors and the elite, and a satisfying tonic that was consumed daily and offered the sustenance needed to tackle virile challenges.

Contrary to its ho-hum, sometimes even junk food-y reputation, real chocolate is an incredibly complex substance, containing 400-500 different compounds. Among those compounds are several with mind and body boosting benefits:

  • Caffeine – a stimulant present in small amounts, depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingredients.
  • Theobromine – a mild stimulant distinct from caffeine which provides the lion’s share of chocolate’s kick and energizes without greatly activating the central nervous system the way the former does. It also enhances mood, dilates blood vessels, can lower blood pressure, relaxes the smooth muscles of the bronchi in the lungs, and can be used as a cough medicine.
  • Tryptophan  – releases the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
  • Phenylethylamine – functions similarly to amphetamines in releasing norepinephrine, which increases excitement, alertness, and decision-making abilities, and dopamine, which releases endorphins (natural painkillers) and heightens mood.
  • Flavonoids – antioxidants which may improve blood flow to the heart and brain, prevent clots, improve cardiac health, and act as anti-inflammatories.

Chocolate has also for centuries been rumored to be an aphrodisiac.

In short, hot cocoa is a powerful elixir – one which boosts mood and vitality and combats stress, anxiety, and pain. For good reason is the chocolate tree’s scientific name — Theobroma cacao — ancient Greek for “food of the gods.” For what other drink tastes great, is filling in nature, and stimulates mind and body?

No wonder then that this beverage, far from being a kiddie drink, has been a favorite of rulers, warriors, and explorers for centuries.

A Note on Terminology: Hot Chocolate vs. Hot Cocoa

While hot chocolate and hot cocoa are often used interchangeably, they’re not actually the same thing. Chocolate begins as cacao seeds (often referred to as cocoa beans) that grow in pods on the bark of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. These seeds are then fermented, dried, and roasted. The shells are removed, leaving the cacao nibs. The nibs are crushed into a thick paste called chocolate liquor (despite the name, it does not contain alcohol), which is made up of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The ancient peoples of Mesoamerica mixed this paste with water to make a highly-prized beverage.

Before there was Red Bull…there was cocoa.

Chocolate was made this way and consumed almost entirely as a drink until 1828 when Dutch chemist Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented a process that could separate out most of the fat — the cocoa butter — from the chocolate liquor, leaving a dry cake that is then pulverized into cocoa powder. Before undergoing this “Dutching” process, the nibs are treated with alkaline salts to neutralize their acidity, mellow the flavor, and improve the cocoas’ miscibility in warm water.  The end result is “Dutch cocoa.” “Natural cocoa” is that which does not undergo this Dutching process.

To make quality solid chocolate, cocoa butter is re-added to the chocolate liquor, along with other ingredients like sugar, vanilla, and milk.

So, hot cocoa is made with cocoa powder, either Dutch or natural, and hot chocolate is made with little pieces or shavings of solid chocolate. The latter is sometimes also called “drinking chocolate.” Both are delicious.

Drink of the Gods: Chocolate in Ancient Mesoamerica

The earliest cultivation of cacao can be traced to ancient Mesoamerica, in which it served a religious, financial, and nutritional purpose.

The drink that was made with cacao, xocolātl, wasconsidered sacred by the Mesoamericans and used during initiation ceremonies, funerals, and marriages. Cacao beans were also used as currency. Because cacao was both currency and food, drinking chocolate was like sipping on cash — kind of like lighting your cigar with a hundred dollar bill – and for this reason was a privilege mainly limited to elites.

Cacao was cultivated and consumed by the Olmecs and Mayans, but is most famously associated with the Aztec civilization. Montezuma the II, who kept a huge storehouse of cacao (supplied by conquered peoples from whom he demanded the beans as tribute) and drank 50 golden goblets of chocolate a day, decreed that only those men who went to war could imbibe cacao, even if they were his own sons. This limited chocolate consumption to royals and nobles who were willing to fight, merchants (their travels through hostile territory necessitated their taking up of arms), and warriors. For the latter, chocolate was a regular part of their military rations; ground cacao that had been pressed into wafers and could be mixed into water in the field were given to every solider on campaign. The drink provided long-lasting nourishment on the march; as one Spanish observer wrote, “This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”

All Aztecs thought of both blood and chocolate as sacred liquids, and cacao seeds were used in their religious ceremonies to symbolize the human heart – harkening to their famous ritual in which this still-beating organ was torn from a sacrificial victim’s chest. The connection between blood and chocolate was especially strong for warriors, and it was served at the solemn initiation ceremony of new Eagle and Jaguar knights, who had to undergo a rigorous penance process before joining the most elite orders of the Aztec army.

In peacetime, chocolate was an after-dinner drink, served along with smoking tubes of tobacco, much in the way modern gentlemen once enjoyed brandy and cigars after a meal (and still do). The Mayans liked their chocolate hot, the Aztecs liked it cold, but all Mesoamericans preferred it foamy – a quality that was accomplished by pouring the chocolate back and forth from a bowl held high into one below (a large, foam-creating swizzle stick was added later through a Spanish creolization of the practice).

Mesoamerican chocolate, unless honey was added, was also bitter. To this strong, bitter brew was added a great variety of spices and seasonings, such as ground up flowers and vanilla. The Aztecs were especially fond of adding chili pepper, which gave the drink a delightful burn going down. Maize was often added to stretch the chocolate and turn it into a more filling gruel, but this version was considered inferior to the pure, potent variety.

The Beverage of Movers and Shakers in Europe

When chocolate was brought back to Spain in the 17th century by conquistadors, it quickly spread throughout Europe, where it continued to be considered a luxury and a drink of the elites. Originating on the continent from Spain, and more expensive than coffee, chocolate was seen as southern, Catholic, and aristocratic, while coffee was viewed as northern, Protestant, and middle-class.

Chocolate was a popular beverage among monks and priests; Jesuits ran some cacao plantations in the New World. According to the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, many of “the first recipes using cacao beans came from a 12th century Cistercian monastery, Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Piedra monasterio. Extant documents indicate that by 1534 it is already a staple in the monastic kitchen. According to tradition, a Franciscan friar, Fray Jerónimo de Aguilar, who had traveled with Cortéz, gave a recipe and some beans to Don Antonio de Álvero, the Abbot of the Monastery. As depicted in this photo – located at the Monasterio de Piedra – Cistercian communities, even to this day, often have a room located above the cloister, known as the chocolatería, used specifically for the preparation and enjoyment of chocolate.” Interestingly, the popularity of drinking chocolate among Catholics led to sometimes fervent debate over whether it was a drink or a food, and thus whether it could, or could not, be consumed during times of fasting.

Yet with the Spanish revival of the Mayan practice of drinking chocolate hot and the welcome addition of milk and sugar, the beverage soon won converts from many corners – many of whom began to give the ancient drink some twists of their own. The addition of cinnamon and black pepper was popular, as was ambergris, a solid, fatty substance found in the intestines of sperm whales, and musk, secreted by the glands of the Himalayan musk deer (and believed to be an aphrodisiac). Other drinkers experimented with throwing orange peel, rose water, cloves, ground up pistachios and almonds, or egg yolks into the brew.

Chocolate was drunk in large cups at Spanish bullfights, and began to be served across Europe both at dedicated “chocolate houses” and at coffee houses, where members of the upper class gathered to sip hot beverages, gamble, and discuss the pressing philosophical and political issues of the day. In England, each establishment was typically associated with one of the Parliamentary parties, and often turned into full-on gentlemen’s clubs. For example, the Cocoa-tree Chocolate House, located on St. James Street in London, was patronized by the Tory party, and then became the Cocoa Tree Club; eminent men like Jonathan Swift and Edward Gibbon were members. Mrs. White’s Chocolate House, another Tory establishment, was created on Chesterfield St. in 1693; it was famous not only for its chocolate but as a notorious center of gambling – the gaming room was nicknamed “Hell” and patrons placed bets on everything from elections to which raindrop would make it to the windowpane first. The chocolate house moved to St. James Street in 1778 and transformed into an official, and highly elite, gentlemen’s club. Over 300 years later, it is still around and now simply called White’s. The club’s rolls have included three monarchs and a huge consortment of other royals, nobles, and prime ministers.

Fueling Expeditions to the Ends of the Earth

With its hot, filling, rejuvenating qualities, cocoa has been an essential staple on all the major expeditions to the North and South Poles. Explorers and their teams of men would drink cup after cup of it as a bulwark against the morale and strength-sapping task of trudging across an icy, austere landscape.

The daily ration for Robert Falcon Scott’s trek to the South Pole: 450g biscuit, 340g pemmican, 85g sugar, 57g butter, 24g tea, 16g cocoa.The sugar was mixed into the cocoa, and Scott said, prevented the men from wanting to kill each other. As a side note, these rations only provided each man about 4,500 calories a day, at least 2,000 less than is needed for sledging, which is why the men starved and died on their return from the Pole. Roald Amundsen, who beat Scott to the Pole, and actually gained weight on the way back, brought five times as much cocoa.

During Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole, he had his men drink hot cocoa five nights a week. Each evening when they stopped for supper, they warmed up one pot of what they called “hoosh” — a thick stew made with pemmican (dried beef and fat) and hard biscuits – and a pot of cocoa. They washed the former down with the latter. While as one of his men, Apsley Cherry-Garrard, recorded in his dairy, “Many controversies raged over the rival merits of tea and cocoa,” and some of the men preferred the former, Scott preferred cocoa for its milder stimulation. As Cherry-Garrard noted, “the warmth of your hours of rest depends largely on getting into your bag immediately after you have eaten your hoosh and cocoa,” and having to get out of the bag during the night, exit the tent, and expose one’s peppermint stick to the cold was not a thought anyone relished. Scott compromised by allowing tea two evenings a week. He also had his men drink cocoa in the mornings to get something substantial and invigorating in their stomachs while minimizing bathroom breaks on the march.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard (right), a member of the Terra Nova Expedition, was asked by Scott to man-haul a sledge 60 miles to Cape Crozier to retrieve an Emperor penguin egg. The men became pinned down by a blizzard, their tent blew away, and they laid in their sleeping bags exposed to the falling snow and -40 degree temperatures. It was so cold, Cherry-Garrard shattered most of his teeth because they chattered so hard. The men returned to the base camp a month later exhausted and frozen and were revived with cups of cocoa. In his account of the horrific experience, The Worst Journey in the World, Cherry-Garrard mentions cocoa no less than two dozen times, saying, “there was always plenty to be had,” and calling it “the most satisfying stuff imaginable” and “the most comforting drink.”

In 1989, when American explorer Will Steger spent 220 days traveling almost 4000 miles in the first dog-sled traverse of Antarctica, he and his international team of five others went through 2,070 cups of Swiss Miss.

Hot Cocoa on the Front Lines

Beginning with the Aztec warriors, chocolate and cocoa has been included in military rations for centuries.

During the Revolutionary War, officers often breakfasted on chocolate and members of the Continental army were given a monthly allotment of chocolate according to rank; colonels and chaplains received four pounds of chocolate, majors and captains three pounds, lieutenants two pounds, and so on. This chocolate ration was created by smooshing prepared cacao nibs into a cake. With their pocket knives, soldiers would shave pieces of the cake off into a pot of boiling water. The resulting drink was considered rejuvenating, and much of the chocolate available went to hospitals to help the sick and wounded get their strength back.

The invention of cocoa powder made “chocolate” easier for soldiers to carry and prepare while on campaign. But during World War I, before true field rations had been invented, troops were often supplied with hot cocoa by YMCA volunteers. In a time where the military had not yet developed its own morale, welfare, and comfort services, the YMCA took on this role, sending 25,000 volunteers to military units and bases from Egypt to France. Among their many services, “Red Triangle Men,” as they were called, set up comfort huts and canteens, often quite close to the battlefield, where soldiers could come for food, smokes, and cup after cup of piping hot cocoa after a firefight.

YMCA canteen in Egypt.

A “Y” man serves hot chocolate in the Toulon Sector, March 22, 1918. Said one solider, the cocoa made them “feel like new men.”

“Once again the Ypres Salient was resounding with intense artillery fire. The British regulars had blown up six giant craters in the enemies’ lines at St. Eloi and the Canadians were holding the captured territory. But the ground was held at great cost. Our men were returning wounded, broken, and weary. In those days both the man and the dug-out were needed. Early and late he toiled over a troublesome gasoline stove to prepare hot cocoa for the wayfarers. A constant stream of heroes came down the road. “Walking patients,” men who had not been too severely wounded, in the head or arm, were sent from the trench dressing station to the field dressing station lower down. Some who passed by had been buried by “Rum Jars”; others were victims of shell concussion, but most of them had been struck by shrapnel and were faint with loss of blood. Wounds had taken all the “sand” out of them, and the hot cocoa was a welcome tonic for the weary and wounded marchers.” -Young Men, Vol. 43, 1917

During WWII, new kinds of combat rations were developed, including the C-Ration. The C-Ration was a two-can meal, consisting of an M-unit – an entrée, like meat stew — and a B-unit – bread and dessert. The latter originally contained 5 hardtack crackers, 3 sugar tablets, 3 Dextrose energy tablets, and a packet of beverage mix (instant coffee, powdered lemon drink, or boullion soup powder). In 1944, the beverage list was expanded and a disc of sweetened cocoa was added to the choices.

Cocoa mix was added to the C-ration in 1944.

In the years after the war, the C-Ration was modified and revised and went through several subsequent variations. In 1954, the C-4 was released, which added, among other things, sugar and non-dairy creamer to the mix. Soldiers often used one package of each to enhance their cocoa.

C-Rations were phased out in 1958, although Vietnam soldiers continued to receive cases of them marked with dates from the 1950s. To replace the C-Ration, the military developed the “Meal, Combat, Individual,” or MCI, which included more variety than its predecessor. Four different B-unit cans were available, including the B-3, which contained 4 cookies and a packet of cocoa mix. Cocoa packets were prized and nonsmokers would trade their cigarettes (4 were included in the MCI’s “Accessory Pack”) for them. Some of the men would add the cocoa to their coffee to make a mocha beverage. If they were out of cocoa, the men would heat up water inside a can, chop up their Tropical Bar (a heat resistant chocolate bar that came in their sundries kit) into the water, and add a packet of creamer and sugar to make a hot and satisfying drink.

Cocoa mix is still included in MREs, which began to replace MCIs in the 70s and 80s.

Celebrate the Holidays (and Beyond!) with This Virile Elixir!

If this post has you hankering for a cup of cocoa, here are a few tips to get the most out of this virile beverage.

Dark chocolate has as much as three times more flavonoids than wine and green tea, and cocoa powder has more of them than solid dark chocolate does. However, because the alkalizing process that Dutch cocoa undergoes saps 60-80% of its flavonoids (although cocoa is so high in them that actually still leaves a whole lot), you may want to look for natural cocoa to get the most potent dose. Prepared cocoa mixes also oftentimes contain more sugar than cocoa, so add a little sugar or a natural sweetener (like stevia) to an unsweetened variety as desired. Mark, of Mark’s Daily Apple, drinks it as a rare holiday indulgence (he’s not a proponent of regularly consuming dairy) straight up in his milk, arguing that the leche adds enough natural sweetness on its own. Unfortunately, studies have shown that dairy may inhibit antioxidant activity and absorption in the body, so if you’re looking to get those benefits, you may just want to mix it in almond or coconut milk, or straight up in hot water. You can even create a truly potent tonic using raw, ground-up cacao nibs, just like a proper Mayan. (Bonus: cacao nibs are an excellent source of magnesium, which naturally helps boost testosterone – perhaps there’s something to the old idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac after all…)

Of course, as mentioned at the start, antioxidants are not the only benefit of chocolate, and its feel-good properties are only enhanced with a little sugar and milk at the proper time. Like on a backpacking trip, or, say, while riding the Polar Express. Can I be the only one who thought as a boy that the mention of “hot cocoa as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars” was one of the most memorable parts of that book?

Mmmm, I think I’m going to make a creamy mug and go sit down by the fire. Eat, or as it were, tear your heart out, Aztec warrior.




The True History of Chocolate by Sophie D. Coe and Michael D. Coe

Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louis E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro


{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gerald December 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Real Cocoa is like the real oldskool black chocolate…

Definatly no kids’ stuff.


is there a brand like

in the U.S.?

Never saw something like it…

2 Andrew December 17, 2012 at 6:06 pm

As soon as I saw this new post, I decided to make myself a cup of hot cocoa to drink while I read this. Great article, sir!

3 Geoff December 17, 2012 at 7:27 pm

The MRE mocha is still alive and well. One pack of cocoa beverage powder mixed with as many packets of Nescafe as you can convince your buddies to give you.

4 Claude December 17, 2012 at 8:01 pm

All right, ya talked me into it. Where’s my big Santa mug?

As always, excellent research and post Brett and Kate!

5 Nusy December 17, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Making hot cocoa from scratch is not hard, either, and it tastes a lot better than the store-bought instant mixes.

Just heat up about 1 quart of milk in a heavy saucepan, stirring at all times, until it’s almost boiling (do NOT bring it to a boil though). In a separate mug, combine 3 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa, a skimpy tablespoon of honey (for flavor), and 3-5 tablespoons of sugar, to taste. With a ladle, scoop over some of the hot milk into the mug, and stir it until the cocoa mixture is smooth. Add the cocoa to the hot milk, and stir. Heat for another minute or two, and serve with whipped cream, or optionally, with a shot of rum or whiskey in it.

6 Myles Arwine December 18, 2012 at 8:28 am

Just made me a cup and honestly it was such a change. Normally I drink tea or sometimes coffee but I don’t feel like I need to use mouthwash after I drink chocolate. Thanks

7 medm December 18, 2012 at 9:25 am

This made me think of Dave Canterbury of the Pathfinder School and his Journal of the Yurt Videos… He is one manly man who really likes his hot chocolate.

8 Alex December 18, 2012 at 10:05 am

Important to note that Cadburys was formed by Quakers and the drinking chocolate/cocoa they created was promoted as a substitute for alcohol (since Quakers reject alcohol, and alcohol dependency was rife in England at the time). All the pubs in the area of the Cadbury factory were gradually replaced with coffee and cocoa cafés and when the Cadbury family built Bournville for its workers it built many coffee/cocoa cafés in the area to encourage the locals to shun alcohol and drink chocolate instead. I know this because my family is from the area and many family members have worked for Cadburys over the years.

9 Matt D December 18, 2012 at 10:40 am

I recommend adding chile powder to your hot cocoa. Here is my favorite recipe:

10 Chris December 18, 2012 at 11:40 am

@Gerald: You can actually buy Scho-ka-kola in the US…look on amazon, reenacting suppliers, and German delis.

My wife got me started on Cadbury’s with milk…now I won’t drink it any way else. Antioxidants or not, it’s way better than just water.

11 Chris J L December 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm
12 Scott Sideleau December 18, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Thank you for the “Polar Express” reference at the end of the article. You most assuredly were not the only one that relished in the exposition of hot chocolate in that short story.

13 Mitja December 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Respect on the lenght and quality of this article. I enyoy reading on this site…

14 Patrick December 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Does anyone have experience or favorites with Mayan hot cocoa recipes? I’ve tried stuff with pepper added and it’s good but the real Mayan drink sounds more complex and exotic.

15 Chocoholic December 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I think you owe us a flow-up “Best Of” article to determine the best cocoa. It’s your duty to inform and lead.

16 Kelly December 18, 2012 at 4:03 pm

A couple months ago I read a book called “Sweet Tooth” that covered the history of sugar and candy. I learned that for a very long time, actually, sweets in general were thought of as something mainly for grown men, not children or even women as much. So this definitely falls in line with what I learned there, but the military history of cocoa particularly in this post are something I wasn’t aware of – very interesting!

@Nusy – Yes! Rum or bourbon is totally the way to go in cocoa, but when I see spiked hot chocolate on the menu at any restaurant or bar, it’s usually with vodka. I have nothing against vodka, but the taste isn’t rich enough to stand up to the cocoa and just sort of “cuts” or thins it in my opinion. So I have no idea how it became the standard thing to add!

17 Brian December 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Alton Brown’s Cocoa Nib Hot Chocolate Recipe can be found here. I’ve tried it and it’s super tasty, though cocoa nibs can be hard to find (I order mine through an online dealer).

18 minuteman December 18, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I would like to repeat what Nusy said, except with modifications. In this part of the world (Canada) we use Fry’s cocoa powder. I put usually two or four mugs of milk into a pan, add the appropriate amounts of sugar and cocoa (usually a bit more than what the can calls for). heat it and stir it with a whisk. the cocoa will dissolve as the milk gets hot. Be careful not to burn the milk. I like to add a little rum, or what ever liqueur I happen to have available. This is way better than any powdered hot chocolate.

19 Ceuson December 18, 2012 at 5:39 pm

How’d you know it was The Shop Around the Corner? I’ve watched it three times in as many weeks. I did watch it once with red wine and chocolate. But, hey, I’ll watch it again with cocoa…if I have to. ;)

20 Selleck December 18, 2012 at 8:00 pm

A Spanish conquistador(after they destroyed the Aztec, and started disliking cocoa until they brought it back) once quoted, “The drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustinence of anything you can drink in the world because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without food.” I guess chocolate wasn’t only food for the gods!

21 Ben December 18, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Just a note about tryptophan:

Tryptophan, when absorbed through the digestive tract, is not sent to the brain to be used to release or create serotonin. Your brain is protected by a system known as the ‘Blood-brain barrier’ that generally stops tryptophan and other material from being transmitted through the blood to the brain (not everything, but most things are stopped). The brain will synthesize it’s own serotonin and tryptophan through other biochemical reactions.

22 James Lawlor December 19, 2012 at 7:03 am

I’m fond of the standard Hershey’s Cocoa recipe with a few tweaks:
-Chili Pepper
-Allspice or Nutmeg
-Honey or Raw Sugar instead of regular

23 Damien December 19, 2012 at 8:15 am

@Gerald, maybe in general not kids stuff, but our kids go for the oldskool black chocolate. My son especially, who can’t tolerate sugar well, has a special hot chocolate made by a local chocolatier made with melted, unsweetened 100% dark chocolate. Our guys are an exception though. :-)

24 Joe December 19, 2012 at 8:40 am

C-Rations were phase out in 1958? I enlisted in 1981 and we were still issued C-Rats in the field until around 1984.

25 Bud December 19, 2012 at 11:11 am

Wonderful article – which is what it is really; more than just a blog post – until you got to the how to drink it healthily with stevia etc..

Can’t a man drink a cup of hot chocolate without consulting Mark Sisson?

26 Jason Keough December 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I’ve known the merits of chocolate milk as a post work out drink for years. I just started seeing articles about it in fitness magazines; studies are showing that low fat chocolate milk out performs the top “muscle repair” drinks on the market.

27 kirk December 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm

Cocoa is nice on occasion in black coffee. 1/2 and 1/2.

The fruit that surrounds the cocoa pod I wish could be sold in stores. It’s almost rhubarb or cherry in tartness but has its own very nice flavor. But I hear it does not last long at all. So if you every have the chance to try it at a plantation do so.

28 Bart December 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

I know that this pertain to the post but I was wondering if there is an AoM post about wine and the difference in wines and what to pair wines with. If someone could direct me to that post or give me an answer that would be awesome!

29 Sergey Zabarin December 20, 2012 at 12:30 am

I read this post with pure delight from start to finish. Excellent job!

30 Blake Helgoth December 20, 2012 at 6:55 am

Interesting to note that the YMCA huts would not serve Catholics. In response, the Knights of Columbus raised money from it’s membership and set up huts all over. Their slogan was, Everyone welcome, everything free.’ They came to be know as Casey huts because they were labeled K of C. I have no idea of they served chocolate though.

31 peter behringer December 20, 2012 at 11:33 am

Great post and very educational! .here in Venezuela (a major cocoa pod producer) most locals are at a loss to share or explain historical knowledge of their long lost colonial era agrocultural traditions…and we as expats, have to be sharp, on our toes to answer questions from our ecosafari adventure tour guests. Kudos!

32 Jeff December 21, 2012 at 1:07 pm

today at the office i made myself an pot of hot Cocoa with a broken bits from a dark chocolate bar from the vending machine. With boiled water and and some milk… warehousemen outside smoking watched me through the window like WTF…

33 Joe December 21, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Of the “adult additives” I prefer butterscotch Schnapps over any rum, whiskey, or vodka. The sweetness is not overpowering, nor is the alcohol.

34 Phil December 21, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Great article! Can’t wait to get home and have a cup.

My favorite adult additive? Pepperment Schnapps (We call them snugglers)

35 P.M.Lawrence December 22, 2012 at 12:00 am

I make mine by stirring together the right amounts of full cream milk powder and a decent drinking chocolate, then adding hot water and stirring. It saves on the washing up.

One recipe I haven’t tried is, boil a little water in a pan, stir in a dollop of marmalade, grate in a few dollops of decent cooking chocolate to taste (i.e., no added sugar or milk solids – I imagine cocoa nibs would be even better), then stir in maybe three times as much full cream milk while it all simmers (no boiling by this stage). Navy cocoa used something like this without the marmalade and with condensed/evaporated milk, finished off with a shot of rum.

36 Emerson December 22, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Hello Brett,
Thanks for the great article and insight on a wonderful drink that has lost it’s view of Manliness. As usual, your articles tend to have good timing, as I recently learned about a drink called Choffy. It’s essentially hot chocolate that’s brewed like coffee by grinding the beans and brewing it in a french press. Their website has more info but I thought it would be of interest to you and others. Merry Christmas!
*I left out the website but you can find it by googling choffy and it should be the first result.

37 Chris December 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Wow! That was an amazing article. Thank You for all of your hard work and research. I really learned a lot.

38 Peter Kirsop December 25, 2012 at 12:35 am

The trade in cocoa also shows why free trade is amoral.

In the early part of last century Cadburys purchased their cocoa from the Portugese colonies of San Tome, where it was grown and harvested by what was called “contract labour” but which to the Cadbury family’s knowledge- after receiving reports from buyers William Cadbuy visited San Tome in 1905 was a form of slavery; people were seized from villages, marched up to 2000 miles to the cocoa fields and set to work. The Cadburys purchased cocoa there because it was cheaper than from the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Guinea), where the Colonial Office enforced some labour standards. The Cadburys supported free trade in the Daily News of which paper they owned a half share. The Cadburys were exposed by artciles in the Evening Standard, a paper that supported “Imperial Preference” partly because by doing so, the working man’s conditions of employment could bd protected.

The Cadbuy family were unwise enough to sue for libel In a cross examiniation by Sir Edward Carson William Cadbueywas forced to admit the family’s knowledge and that they purchased cocoa from San Tome because it was cheaper. Carson’s closing question is still a model for cross examination
CARSON: Have you formed any estimate of the number of slaves who lost their lives in preparing your cocoa from 1901 to 1908?

Source Chocolate On Trial:
Slavery, Politics, And The Ethics Of Business L J Satre Ohio University Press

39 P.M.Lawrence December 29, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Actually, cocoa growing was introduced to West Africa in the 19th century by certain Quaker families – notably Fry, Cadbury and Rowntree – to help displace the slave trade by providing a viable alternative source of revenue. So their role in this was far more humanitarian than that last comment might suggest.

40 Native Son December 31, 2012 at 10:50 am

With all the interesting comments concerning the issue of cocoa, one was overlooked. The Royal Navy & the Royal Canadian Navy escort ships had cocoa issues during the night watches. Imagine being on an OPEN ship’s bridge at night during a North Atlantic winter. The cocoa issue is mentioned in numerous writings about escort duty in those services.

41 Jon January 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Speaking as a Soldier, there’s nothing unmanly about hot chocolate. We use it all the time during field exercises or to keep Soldiers warm during guard duty. My brew of choice is one packet instant mixed into one cup of industrial-strength black coffee. Works like a charm!

42 Callie January 7, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I’ll take two.

43 Porcelina January 16, 2013 at 4:35 am

I, being Mexican-American, prefer my Abuelita brand hot chocolate the best. Although, it IS a bit of an acquired taste. The kids certainly don’t like it that much.

44 Benjamin Heldt October 12, 2013 at 10:15 pm

The Steger International Polar Expedition was in 1986, not 1989.

45 Kirk Lowry December 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I can’t stand the taste of coffee, but after enlisting and finding myself volunteering for submarine duty (as a nuke), it was almost an essential. I couldn’t train myself to tolerate coffee, though, even with tons of cream/sugar added. Then one day I tossed in a pack of Navy hot chocolate. Success!!! After some fiddling, I dialed in the recipe to one creamer, one spoon of sugar, pack of hot chocolate, and a coffee cup full of coffee. Tastes like regular hot chocolate, and the added creamer/sugar eliminated the aftertaste. I know a couple of guys adopted that habit, as well. I still will not drink coffee at work unless there’s a pack of hot chocolate available to mix with it.

46 John December 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm

As always, A of M provides some of the best and most informative articles .

47 Roger Church January 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Great article. As a Peace Corps volunteer in Western Samoa, I became very familiar with the beverage made from unprocessed , roasted beans. With the cocoa butter still present, it makes a delicious drink – and you can chew on the dregs of the roasted cocoa beans. Of course, to be true “koko Samoa” as prepared in the village, the beans need to be roasted over an open fire on a sheet of corrugated iron, and the roasted beans must be broken up between a volcanic stone and the butt end of an axe.
Faiaoga (‘schoolteacher” in Samoan)

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