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What Is Aztec Hot Chocolate?

  • Aztec hot chocolate is a traditional beverage customary to parts of Mexico where the ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations lived. At its most basic form, it's a mix of hot chocolate with chili powder or spice, and sometimes cinnamon and vanilla.

  • The word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec "xocoatl", for cacao plant. Hot chocolate was believed to be magical and allow contact with the gods, which, after tasting it, is not so outlandish.

  • Our rich Aztec hot chocolate is a delicious way to try this spicy hot chocolate yourself.

Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate Explained

Everybody knows the sense of calm and satisfaction that a mug of hot chocolate brings to a cold winter night. We tend to associate hot chocolate with comfort...which is why many people have probably never thought to add chili pepper or cayenne pepper to their hot cocoa.

This is the gist of Aztec hot chocolate: mix cocoa powder with chili powder and cinnamon and you've got a mug that's sure to warm you up in more way than one.

By the way, we think the best base for this drink is hot milk, not water. (It's one of our favorite winter drinks if you happen to like dipping cookies, too.)

The History of Aztec Hot Chocolate

While the Aztec civilization dominated northern and central Mexico prior to the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s, with the height of the Aztec reign stretching from around 1300 to 1550, many believe that Aztec chocolate has roots in the Mayan civilization that populated modern Mexico for centuries.

hot chocolate, drink, dairy


Either way, chocolate from ground cacao beans has been revered as a rich delicacy for generations – and we can largely thank the Mayan and Aztec civilizations for that.

Chocolate was Sacred

The word "chocolate" comes from the Aztec word xocoatl. The Aztecs considered xocoatl and hot chocolate a sacred beverage, and it was often reserved for special ceremonies.

Chocolate was so valuable, in fact, that it was at one time used as a currency! Just as the Romans used salt as a currency, the Aztecs would trade with chocolate and use it as a symbol of status. They also considered cocoa a sacred elixir and thought it had mystical or magical properties that could bring them closer to the gods. We don't exactly know how, but spicing up hot chocolate with things like a cinnamon stick and some cayenne pepper became the norm. Some historians believe the Aztecs liked bold flavors, so the kick that the spicy tinge added was probably a bonus. It also makes their beverage stand out from other international variations.

After the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, xocoatl was imported to Europe and gradually became what we now know as chocolate.

Nowadays, Aztec hot chocolate can be made with chili pepper, oat milk, vanilla extract, chili powder, whipped cream, or any other combination of the basic ingredients.

Are Aztec and Mexican Hot Chocolate the Same Thing?

Short answer: yes and no.

While Aztec spicy chocolate is the more common term, this drink invariably originated in Mexico. Precise recipes and flavors will vary from region to region, but Aztec hot chocolate, Mayan hot chocolate, and Mexican hot chocolate all refer loosely to the same things: spicy drinking chocolate.

Both are likely referring to variations of the same basic recipe of cinnamon, cocoa, milk or water, and a spice or powdered chili of some kind.

What Makes A Good Spicy Hot Chocolate?

To make the best spicy hot chocolate requires a base of milk, cocoa or chocolate powder, a chili powder, and sometimes other warm flavors like vanilla or ground cinnamon. It's believed that the Aztecs liked it truly spicy, but you can regulate how much heat is in your cup by controlling the type and amount of spice you add.

Feel free to try experiment with common household spices, including ground cayenne, chipotle powder, or ancho chili.

For the chefs among us, start with some dark chocolate melting chocolate over medium-low heat. A good, dark cocoa base will give your chocolate a deep rich flavor. Of course, if you don't fancy the idea of melting chocolate from scratch, you can always throw some chocolate melts or hot cocoa powder into your milk and microwave it.

The Best Aztec Hot Chocolate Online from Philly Fair Trade

Aztec Hot Chocolate tin

If you want to save yourself the trouble, our custom Aztec Hot Chocolate blend recreates the spirit of the original Aztec beverage with a simple recipe that sticks to the basics. This fair trade cocoa powder from Central America comes in an 8 oz can and includes mixed vanilla, cinnamon, sugar, and some spice for a little kick.

Mix it right into your mug of hot water or milk to get the same rich experience as the ancient Aztecs.

While we've made our Aztec spicy chocolate easy for anyone right off the shelf (beginning with raw unsweetened cocoa powder), some of the most delicious home-made recipes begin with melted dark chocolate.

How The Aztecs Made It With Raw Cacao

The ideal is to create a thick, glossy drink – a true "drinking chocolate". Buy high-quality melting chocolate and melt it into milk over medium heat for a few minutes. Don't add sugar or cocoa or boiling water yet – just milk. This ensures the chocolate dissolves thoroughly, giving you that lovely texture that cocoa powder doesn't quite match. 

A Basic DIY Aztec Hot Chocolate Recipe

While our Aztec hot cocoa is scoop-and-go, the uninitiated might consider trying a simple at-home recipe first.

Heat Milk and melt chocolate

The best hot cocoa often finds its success in milk, not water. You can use plant-based milk if you're a vegan or don't like whole milk, but heat gently on medium heat, without boiling, then add your powdered or solid melting chocolate of choice.

Mix In the spices

When the chocolate has melted, add a small amount of cayenne pepper or any ground chili in your cupboard. This is also the time to throw in a cinnamon stick for a gentle flavor, ground cinnamon for more zip, or vanilla extract. You can get creative, but tradition demands at least cinnamon or pepper.

Depending on your chocolate source, you might even add a pinch of salt or sugar to enhance the flavor, but if you're using store-bought hot chocolate mix, that's not likely to be necessary. Add whipped cream and enjoy!

Or, find premade Aztec hot chocolate from Philly Fair Trade right here.

Coffee and Chocolate Lovers Unite

Philly Fair Trade Roasters specializes in fair trade and organic coffee, much of it sourced from Central and South America where our Aztec spicy hot chocolate finds its roots. We wholesale fair trade coffee throughout Central Pennsylvania, and we sell fair trade coffee online for delivery right to your door. Whether you're looking for a basic brew to set you morning off right, or a specialty blend from a specific growing region, we've got something for everyone.

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