International Chocolate Day
It’s International Chocolate Day 2020, and what better way to celebrate it than by talking about hot chocolate. It’s a delicious treat that can be found in coffee shops, cafes and all manner of businesses that serve food. To many, it’s also a favourite at home, the perfect calming drink before bed.
However, not many understand the origins of hot chocolate and how it came to be in it's original form. In this article, prepare to uncover the origins of hot chocolate, as well as how your coffee shop can satisfy your customer's sweet tooth!
Early Origins of Hot Chocolate
Chocolate, and chocolate drinks have a long and interesting history that has now developed into the diverse range of chocolate products we enjoy today.
The early history of chocolate actually begins in a liquid drink form, rather than the solid bars of milk and dark chocolate we know today. As early as 500 BC, the Mayans were drinking chocolate made from ground-up cocoa seeds mixed with water, cornmeal, and chili peppers (as well as other ingredients)—a much different version from the hot chocolate we know today. This cocoa-based drink was believed to grant the drinker strength and act as an aphrodisiac. As a result, it was coveted by royalty, fed to warriors, and used as a medicine by the Mayans.
It took until the 16th Century for Europeans to get their hands on the cacao bean, and throughout the next 100 years the ingredient spread throughout the countries of Europe and quickly gained popularity. The Imperial Court of Emperor Charles V soon adopted the drink, and what was then only known as "chocolate" became a fashionable popular drink, popular with the upper classes.
Originally, the European drink was flavoured with sugar and cinnamon to appeal to the palate of the European aristocracy who were the only ones who could afford it. Throughout the 17th and 18th Century, the ways we enjoyed chocolate changed, with it becoming commercialised as new techniques and methods were created.
Hot chocolate hit London in the 1700's. Chocolate houses became popular, even though chocolate was very expensive. In the late 1700's, Hans Sloane, the president of the Royal College of Physicians, brought back a hot chocolate recipe from Jamaica, one that involved milk. After this discovery, it became popular to enjoy hot chocolate with milk, which many agreed made the drink more palatable.
The Spanish are credited with serving chocolate drinks hot, sweetened, and without any additional ingredients like chilli, as customary originally in South America. Additionally, cocoa was given as a dowry when members of the Spanish Royal Family married other European aristocrats. The Spanish were extremely protective of their newfound beverage, with it taking another 100 years before hot chocolate reached other parts of Europe.
From Spain, the drink spread throughout Europe, and the world soon after. Dedicated “chocolate houses” were established in cities, similar to the coffee shops we enjoy today. Many of these ‘Chocolate houses’ can still be found in areas of Germany, Belgium and Austria.
Throughout the world, hot chocolate is served very differently. Some like the drink as a light, thin smooth chocolate flavour. Others like a thick, intensely chocolatey cup that’s somewhere between a liquid and a solid version of chocolate.
Whichever way you like it, though - we can all agree that chocolate is a delicious ingredient; and its popularity is shown in the huge range of chocolate flavoured foods, drinks and creative recipes being enjoyed every day.
Satisfy Your Customer's Sweet Tooth
International Chocolate Day, falling on the 13th, poses a unique opportunity for many independent eateries and cafes.
In a similar fashion to your World Chocolate Day celebrations, why not bake a variety of chocolately goods to offer on the special day. Perhaps discount your hot chocolate for the day, or offer a "make-your-own" hot chocolate service, where customers can pick and choose their own ingredients and toppings. This way, you have something to promote and shout about on social media, and customers benefit from gorging on chocolate at a reduced price (a definite win-win).
If you're feeling even more creative, perhaps think about running group cooking classes (remembering to stick to government guidelines). You could organise an after-hours cooking lesson, where 6 or so customers can experience making their very own chocolate goodies, be them cookies, cakes or muffins. This will not only diversify your coffee shops' income stream but will also ensure your coffee shop stands out from other independent eateries.
With Macmillan Coffee Morning coming up, why not conjoin the two activities into one? Celebrate International Chocolate Day whilst simultaneously raising money for a brilliant cause, and one that has been so badly affected by the pandemic. For the event, perhaps have your staff members recreate their favourite chocolate dishes and have your customers rank them, with the winner being gifted a shorter working day. In return, ask for a donation for every cake they wish to try.
International chocolate day is a global celebration of all things chocolate and that should be an inclusive experience for everyone who wishes to spoil themselves, regardless of their dietary needs.
For this reason, any products you offer for International Chocolate Day should be as inclusive as possible. Dairy-free alternatives should be available, as should nut-free products. By representing all needs, you expand your potential customer base and make it easier for groups of friends to enjoy the same coffee shop together. If you want to learn more about how your coffee shop can become more inclusive, read our blog on the growth of veganism or perhaps our blog documenting the best dairy-free alternatives your coffee shop can offer.