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Aztec Chocolate

Historically, chocolate was first consumed as a bitter, savoury drink by wealthy Mesoamericans centuries before European contact sweetened the recipe with milk and sugar and made solid chocolate. This recipe preserves the spirit of the original chocolate drink, which is ironically better for diabetics than most commercial chocolate. This is not to everyone's taste, but I present it as a curiosity and fan of Central American history. Cacao beans, from which chocolate is derived, were used as currency, therefore making them into a drink signified an excess of wealth.


Two or three squares baker's chocolate, melted or 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Baker's chocolate is usually not meant to be eaten on its own because the cacao content is so high (90%+) that it imparts the characteristic bitter flavour of natural chocolate. But true chocolate connoiseurs know the blacker the better, and very dark is what you want :) Lindt makes great 90% and 99% cacao bars perfect for this recipe. Anything less than 85% is too sweet for authenticity. The lower sugar content makes them safer for diabetics. Unsweetened cocoa powder is the next best thing, the low-fat component of chocolate separated from the cocoa butter, and equally bitter with no sugar added. If you can find 100% cacao chocolate at Mexican food stores, or even grind your own cacao beans, so much the better!

1/2-1 tsp. dried powdered chili pepper
Spicy chili pepper was the primary ingredient which gives the chocolate drink its kick. Do NOT use commercial chili powder as this contains additional spices like black peppercorns and cumin which will give a horrible flavour. Just about any dried chili will do, including piment d'Espelette, chipotle, etc., adjusted to your personal taste for heat.

1 tbl. vanilla extract
Examine the bottle carefully in case it contains added sweeteners that may affect your diabetes. Sugar-free vanilla is available, but harder to find and more expensive, or you can make your own with vanilla pods. Lighter varieties of dark chocolate (85-90%) often already contain vanilla, so you can leave this out.

1/2-1 tbl honey
Honey was the only sweetener the Mesoamericans knew before contact. Unfortunately for some diabetics 1 tbl may be too much. You may substitute Splenda or something artificial, but I haven't tried, and would recommend less since artificials are often many times sweeter than honey or sugar. Don't use more as the drink was not meant to be excessively sweet.

Combine all ingredients with about 1 cup boiling water, whisk together so a frothy foam develops on top, sip and enjoy. This ain't your average cup of hot cocoa!

A thickened version of this drink is a savoury sauce called mole, often served in Mexican restaurants over meat or vegetables. Delicious!
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