Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa – What is the Difference?

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Hot Chocolate vs Hot Cocoa

Throughout the world, people will turn to hot drinks in the fall and winter. One of the favorite choices is something made from chocolate. However, some will call the drink hot cocoa and others will call it hot chocolate. Is there any difference between the two?

People love hot drinks in winter – image by thirstymag.com

Hot Cocoa Definition

The simple explanation is that hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder. This is chocolate that has had all of the fat from the cocoa butter pressed out of it and is made by mixing the powder with hot water or milk. If the powder is unsweetened, sugar can be added to offset the natural bitterness of the powder. While the chocolate taste remains, the rich and lush texture of hot chocolate is absent.

Hot cocoa – image by cookingchaneltv.com

Hot chocolate is made from bars of chocolate that have been shaved, ground or powdered and melted into a cream. Any type of chocolate can be used, to include sweet, semi-sweet, milk, dark or a flavored variety. Baker’s chocolate is generally used to make this beverage. This cream is mixed with milk or water and a sweetener, if necessary.

Hot Chocolate Definition

Hot chocolate was developed centuries before cocoa. It began when the Olmecs of Central America developed the beverage around 1500 B.C.

A cup of hot chocolate – image by carolinescooking.com

While archeologists have found pottery that has the residue of a drink made from cacao beans, it definitely was not the same drink most are familiar with today.

Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa History

Chocolate was drunk primarily by royalty and symbolized life, fertility and health. This drink was made from ground cacao beans, water, chiles and ground toasted corn. It may have included wine or honey. Spanish Conquistadors learned of the drink from the Mayans and the Aztecs and brought it back to Spain.

Chocolate was drunk primarily by royalty and symbolized life, fertility and health – image by alimentarium.org

Spanish chefs changed the recipe regularly to make it more palatable to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The drink was held in Spain for nearly a century and then was exported to the rest of Europe when Princess Maria Theresa (1638 – 1683) of Spain was betrothed to Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) of France. She sent him chocolate that was packaged in an elegant chest.

Still, for centuries, hot chocolate was consumed only by royalty, aristocrats and wealthy merchants as others could not afford the cacao beans.

Hot chocolate was consumed only by royalty, aristocrats and wealthy merchants – image by wordpress.com

After a few centuries, the beans became affordable for use by physicians and the bourgeoisie. Physicians believed that taking a daily cup of chocolate had great health benefits. Due to the luxurious nature of the drink, the Catholic church argued whether drinking it violated the rules of a religious fast.

Pope Gregory XIII ruled that it did not break the fast and in 1645, Tomas Hurtado, from Seville, ruled that if the chocolate was made with water it did not break the fast, while it is was made with milk, it did. Hot chocolate of various recipes was served to the wealthy in coffee houses and chocolate houses though the 17th and 18th century.

Chocolate house in 18th century – image by atlasobscura.com

The beverage did not become readily available until after Coenrad J. Van Houten, a chemist from the Netherlands, developed a process that reduced the fat content and could be produced in a block or cake that could easily be reduced to a powder. Because of this, it was more affordable to the masses.

Van Houten processed the cocoa with alkaline salts and it was named Dutch-processed cocoa. This type of cocoa has a darker color and a milder flavor than cocoa that does not have the alkaline salts.

Coenrad J. Van Houten – image by wikipedia.org

Hot Chocolate and Hot Cocoa Today

Today, both hot cocoa and hot chocolate are readily available to everyone in many different varieties from instant hot cocoa to drinking powders to the original of hot chocolate. Most will consider the image they want to achieve.

Hot cocoa has more of a wholesome and family-oriented feel to it, while hot chocolate is a grown-up drink that is luxurious and decadent. Despite the differences, all are easy to obtain and easy to prepare.

Both have great taste – image by thecookful.com

Realize, however, that there are differences in the quality of the beverage based on the ingredients. So be sure to read the ingredient list of the product chosen to determine whether a richer and smoother beverage is desired.

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