Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why do people drink hot chocolate in the winter?” you ask? Good question. (Besides, it beats answering the question: “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Seriously? Are you a big My Fair Lady fan or what? You’ve never been to the Philippines, have you? How about West Hollywood or New York City even? )
Hot chocolate: That heated drink of melted chocolate or cocoa powder, hot milk or water and sugar. The beverage’s origins hearken back to approximately 2000 BC when Mesoamerican cultures began to experiment with creating “drinking chocolates.” Sometime between the 16th through 19th centuries European folks made it sweeter and less spicy by adding things like sugar and cinnamon. Eventually it became what Americans are used to today—something really sweet, thinner and with less actual cocoa.
Hot chocolate champion Mark J. Sciscenti, contributor to The Guardian, says “instant hot chocolate is ubiquitous around the world. But the tradition of drinking thicker, richer and less sweet chocolate is back en vogue. “
The question is why did hot chocolate become the drink of preference when it’s cold outside?
Sciscenti says hot chocolate is “hot and truly warms you up on a cold day” noting it has a “luxurious taste”. Some say it’s nostalgia. Drinking hot chocolate in the winter reminds one of such childhood memories as “snow days” off from school.
Others say it’s yet another way to consume chocolate. Hot chocolate has even had celebrity endorsement and great word of mouth dating back to 1785 when founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote about the “superiority of (chocolate) both for health and nourishment”.
Jefferson may have been right. Numerous studies verify the virtues of chocolate. One such study proved that hot chocolate increases the microcirculation in your skin thereby warming you.
Other research revealed that drinking hot chocolate can actually release endorphins that calm the drinker. Chocolate has several vitamins, minerals and biochemical compounds too. Additionally, good chocolate has cocoa butter which is a natural energy source. (Sledding and shoveling snow both require lots of energy.)
Finally, people drink hot chocolate because it has a luxurious history having once been enjoyed only by royalty, the privileged and the elite. After all, it was not until well into the 1800s that industrial advances would drop the price of cocoa low enough for the common man to enjoy. Mind you, as Sciscenti notes, “the association of chocolate with decadence and luxury still lingers hundreds of years later.”
Why do people drink hot chocolate in the winter? Now you know.
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