September is probably the most important the month in the year for Mexicans, because it’s the month when we celebrate our independence. This year we are celebrating 204 years of independence from Spain, and at Capella Ixtapa we have prepared several activities throughout the resort to celebrate this special day. I decided to visit Chef Miguel and talk with him about Mexican sweet gold, chocolate.
“Chocolate, perhaps the most popular of sweet foods, has a long history in Mesoamerica and was an important part of Mayan and Aztec culture,” explained Chef Miguel, “at which time it was neither sweet nor a food, but a beverage, and a sour one at that. Today’s word chocolate derives from the Aztec language Nahuatl, from word xocolalt, meaning bitter water (there are several explanations about the origin of the word chocolate; this one is one of the most cited). The Aztecs made a variety of chocolate drinks, combined with honey, nuts, seeds, spices, flowers, and hot chili pepper among others. The thick and cold drink was believed to be a health elixir with aphrodisiac qualities, bringing wisdom and power to anyone who enjoyed it.”
Aztecs valued cocoa beans so much, that they used is as a currency as well. For example, fur cocoa beans could get you a pumpkin and ten would but a rabbit.
The Aztecs attributed the creation of the cocoa plant to their god Quetzalcoatl, who descended from heaven on a beam of a morning star carrying a cocoa tree from paradise. The scientific name of cocoa tree Theobroma is very suitable to its heavenly attributes, as it means “Food of the Goods.” The Aztec emperor Montezuma drank thick chocolate dyed red. The drink was so prestigious that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after only one use. He liked it so much that he was purported to drink 50 goblets every day! In Aztec times, the chocolate drink was used in important religious and social rituals, primarily by priests, emperors, soldiers, wealthy and honored merchants.
Montezuma was the one who introduced cocoa beans and chocolate to young Spaniard Hernán Cortés, who conquered México in 1519 and in 1528 returned to Spain with some cocoa beans. The Spaniards were the ones first starting to add sugar to the drink, and it became quite the delicacy. The formula for this highly demanded and noble potion was kept a secret, which Spain managed to keep from the rest of the world for almost 100 years!
Slowly, the secret was revealed, and chocolate was introduced to royal courts in France in 1615 and Austria in 1711. A Frenchman opened the first chocolate house in London in 1657, and Italians began serving chocolate in Florence and Venice in 1720. The chocolate was first introduced to United States in 1764. Industrial Revolution in 18th century helped make chocolate available to masses.
We got first eatable solid chocolate in 1847 by an Englishman Joseph Fry, and… you know the rest.
Today, chocolate in Mexico is still widely used. Not just as a drink or sweet food, but also as an ingredient in the popular savory mole sauce. The most traditional use for chocolate is for hot beverages such as Atole, Champurrado and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
Chef Miguel was kind enough to share his recipe form Mexican Hot Chocolate, one I am sure will become a favorite at your home!
HOT MEXICAN CHOCOLATE
Although Montezuma drank his frothy chocolate cold, you can enjoy a delicious whipped version of hot Mexican chocolate.
In a bowl, put 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and mix with enough water to make a thin paste.
In a large pan, bring to a boil 4 cups milk.
Break 2-4 cinnamon sticks into the milk.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
Carefully stir in the cocoa mix.
Turn off heat and whip to a froth just before serving.
It tastes godly, doesn’t it?
For activities at Capella Ixtapa during our Patriotic month celebrations, please email the Capella Ixtapa team at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Capella Ixtapa Facebook page for the latest updates.