Who knew? Hot cocoa

The history of a winter favorite


Photo by Maile Sur

Peppermint hot cocoa is a great way to spice up a holiday favorite.

By Maile Sur, news editor

Just because Christmas is over and December ends tonight, it doesn’t mean you can’t cozy up to the fireplace, cuddle up in your favorite sweaters, or sip on a holiday must-have.

I’m talking about hot cocoa.

Hot chocolate originated with the ancient Mayans; however, it wasn’t called “hot chocolate” back then.

The drink was originally served cold and included ingredients such as ground cocoa seeds, water, cornmeal and chili peppers. This made the drink bitter, rather than sweet.

Later, in 1528, the European explorer Hernán Cortés brought the chocolate drink to Spain.

Only known as “chocolate,” it slowly gained popularity among the Europeans; especially among the upper European social class. At the time, the chocolate drink was very expensive, since the cocoa beans were only grown in the Americas.

In the 17th century, hot chocolate got one step closer to the modern version — it was sweetened — but it was still missing one modern component: milk.

In the late 17th century, Hans Sloane, president of the Royal College of Physicians, visited Jamaica, where drinking chocolate made him “nauseous,” so he got the idea to mix it with milk. When he returned to Great Britain, he returned with milk chocolate.

Later, in 1828, Dutchman Coenraad Johannes van Houten invented the first cocoa powder machine.

The press separated the cocoa butter from cacao seeds, leaving a powder behind, which could be stirred into milk.

This invention also led to another discovery: solid chocolate. During this time the name “chocolate” was associated with solid chocolate, rather than hot chocolate.

Today, this world-wide favorite is served in a variety of ways.

For example, in Mexico, hot chocolate has a hint of cinnamon and is served with churros, but in Colombia, the beverage is served at breakfast with bread and farmer’s cheese.

In the United States, however, the drink is popular in the instant, powdered form and is common around the chilly winter holidays.

There are many different renditions of hot cocoa, but a favorite in my family is peppermint cocoa.

The drink is made the same way as instant cocoa, but includes sprinkled peppermint crumbs on the whipped cream, and a full candy cane used as a stir-stick. (For more instructions, see below.)

This is also a good way to used all those extra candy canes you got at the after-Christmas sale, so grab a cup and some cocoa, and get cozy on the couch–winter isn’t over yet!

Peppermint Hot Cocoa


1 package of hot cocoa powder

1 cup of milk

1 can of whipped cream

2 candy canes


Step 1- Stir cocoa powder and milk in pot on stove and bring to a boil. Once hot, pour into cup.

Step 2- Add whipped cream on top, as much as you would like

Step 3- Crush up one candy cane and sprinkle on top

Step 4- Use the other candy cane as a stir stick

Step 5- Smile and enjoy the yummy concoction!