The most popular way to enjoy Oaxaca chocolate is definitely a steaming cup of hot chocolate, preferably with some ‘yolk bread’ (also known as “pan de muerto”). Oaxaca chocolate is either prepared with water or milk as a hot beverage, the latter is slightly sweeter. The chocolate is served with foam using a utensil called grinder or if one is not too concerned about tradition and feels a bit lazy a blender will do very well!
Oaxaca Chocolate has been the beverage of choice in Oaxaca since pre-Hispanic times and was the first product manufactured to be exported from Mexico thanks to the Spanish. Chocolate has also been of great social importance, until relatively recently among the highest social classes of Oaxaca, who used it almost in the same way that the English use the noon tea.
The name of the cacao can be translated as “delicacy of the gods” and is a grain whose cultivation requires a tropical climate.
In pre-Hispanic times it was used as a common currency, surprising the Spaniards when they arrived to see that the cocoa bean, obtained from a tree domesticated and cultivated by the Mayan and Aztec cultures, called “cacau” and “cacahuatl” was used as a pre-Hispanic currency.
In order to be used in this way they were extracted, washed and deposited on a red clay surface which, with the mucilage still adhered, was mixed with this red powder. Sun-dried and hardened grains would then acquire enormous value; both cultures carried out commercial transactions with them throughout Mesoamerica.
In pre-Hispanic times, the large cultivated areas of cacao were located in what are now the states of Colima, Guerrero, Morelos Chiapas, Yucatan and Tabasco.
The Aztecs consider chocolate as an aphrodisiac and their emperor, Moctezuma supposedly drank it fifty times a day from a golden cup. For them chocolate was the divine drink, with which resistance accumulates and fatigue is fought. A cup of this precious drink allows a man to walk for a whole day.
The entrance of chocolate to the kitchen occurred in the sixteenth century, with marriages between people from Spain and Mexico, then also lived miscegenation and began to mix with sugar and flavored with spices (vanilla, cinnamon or pepper). It was served hot with nuts, alone or with milk.
Europeans found it fascinating and chocolate became exclusive to kings and their courts. Later, it became a delicacy of all the tables, thanks to its flavor and versatility.
Of course, there are more uses for chocolate than just drinking, chocolate even finds itself in the black mole which is the most famous dish in Oaxaca. If you want to buy some chocolate to cook or to make hot chocolate, there are numerous chocolate shops ( mills ), where the cocoa beans in the chocolate that dot the city are ground, especially in the area of the historic center of Oaxaca and in the markets.
In Oaxaca, approximately two thousand tons of chocolate are consumed per year, but most of the cocoa is brought from other states such as Tabasco and Chiapas.
Only 1% of the cocoa that is consumed in the state is from Oaxaca, according to the producer Germán Santillán, founder of Chocolate Oaxacanita, an artisan factory established in Villa de Tamazulápam del Progreso, in the Mixteca region.
Health Benefits of Oaxaca Chocolate
Chocolate is also reputed to be a good health remedy: it comforts the stomach and chest, maintains and restores natural heat. Other beneficial effects suggested include anticancer effect, in addition, it is infallible to cure circulatory problems, migraine and gastritis. An aphrodisiac effect has yet to be proven.
Its inviting nature is due to the fact that chocolate fatty acids exert a stimulating role in the production of endorphins, which regulate the pleasure response and improve mood.
So, either to pay honor to the tradition or to put a smile on your face, it never hurts to have a cup of chocolate, and if it’s from Oaxaca, better!