How to make *chocolate*

If you ask for chocolate here (cho-co-lah-tay) it’s hot chocolate. That’s how people first consumed cocao, in this very region!

But we don’t drink it the way the Maya did: in water with cornmeal, chili and NO sweetener. Search for “Mayan hot chocolate” (or Aztec) and the recipes include chili, but also sugar, milk and usually vanilla and more. The Aztecs did add vanilla, but still drank it cold and unsweetened.

I found a couple posts online attempting the “authentic” drink but they call for unsweetened cocoa powder, which is totally inauthentic (would have been ground cocao beans). And of course, no one really likes the drink!

I found a recipe that includes cornmeal - so it’s considered more atole than chocolate. We’ll let you know how that goes when I’m feeling ambitious. That’s more work than I ever put into a drink.

Today, “authentic” Mexican hot chocolate is made with water or milk and chocolate para mesa. Table chocolate comes in a hexagonal bar, but don’t eat it like you’d eat a chocolate bar, it would be disappointing.

The main brands contain (in order of amount): sugar, chocolate or chocolate liquor (melted), vegetable oil, preservatives, emulsifiers, cinnamon or fake cinnamon, etc. Not only does it taste kinda lousy, the ingredients are pretty gross. (e.g. Abuelita)

We’ve found better:

One of Patzcuaro’s countless charms is this totally unsweetened chocolate para mesa. From the cutesy historic Calle Real where the staff wear 1840s costumes, all the chocolate para mesa is sweetened, but no other ingredients are listed.

Finally! Here’s how we make it, in a small saucepan:

  • 3 cups milk+water, could be all milk, but we’re doing 50/50 lately
  • 1 tablet of chocolate para mesa, which is twice as much as usually recommended, and we love it
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 t sugar (plus 1 t in Phillip’s mug)
  • 1/4 t cayenne powder
  • play around with salt, pepper, cardamom, ginger, whatever you’re in the mood for

Put the milk+water on low heat and add cut-up chocolate:

Stir occasionally and keep heat low enough that it doesn’t boil over.

When there are no more chunks of chocolate, add vanilla, sugar, etc. Stir again, then blend. If you’re making it the “traditional” way you’d blend by pouring back and forth between two vessels. If you’re making it the “modern traditional” way you’d blend with a molinillo.

Doesn’t that seem like something we’d use? Nope, we’re using an immersion blender:

  1. We left our molinillo in IN by mistake and I don’t want to buy something that we can retrieve.
  2. We can use an immersion blender on solar power!

But be careful if you use this method, especially if, like us, you have limited kitchen equipment and your saucepan is too small to blend in. Pulse.

Chocolate para mesa is grainy compared to what we eat and drink in the US, so blending not only froths the drink, it helps the overall texture. Still (especially if you use extra chocolate like us) you get dregs, so drink with a spoon. And don’t be afraid to use a finger.

You can find pure chocolate para mesa online, as well as the molinillo and pot for a “modern traditional” hot chocolate.

One final suggestion: this drink has plenty of calories and caffeine so consider drinking it mid-day rather than bedtime. We like it as a late-afternoon pick-up (when it’s too late for coffee, which has even more caffeine). If you start with unsweetened chocolate you can sweeten to your taste with whatever form of sweetener is best for you. Don’t skip the spices!


mom August 02, 2018

i think i’ve seen “pan” as an ingredient in some variations of this. looks like you’ve found a very good kind. thanks for the instructions on making it; i never got the hang of it. And we have 2 or 3 molinillos!

Anna Lisa Gross August 02, 2018

We stopped at Wal-mart today so I scoured the chocolate para mesa section and found nothing good! Even their sugar-free varieties were sweetened (with sugar alcohols). So we’ll have to make a trip to Patzcuaro soon, I used our last 100% cocao tablet for this blog post.

Beth August 03, 2018

Yum! I think it’s time for me to head down to the kitchen and see what cho-co-lah-tey options we have on hand. We were without power for 5 hours today, and, as I tried to figure out if I could do ANY of my usual activities, I thought of you.

Anna Lisa Gross August 03, 2018

Storms, Beth? I hope it was a fun change of pace - and enjoy that chocolate! I wish we were sipping some together!

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