Traditional Guatemalan Decadent Hot Chocolate - Chocolate "El Buen Gusto"
Hot Chocolate is a traditional drink to serve with tamales during the Christmas season in Guatemala. This decadent hot chocolate is made using a few simple ingredients, but will be one of the best hot chocolates you have ever tasted.
When I was living in Guatemala I fell head over heels in love...with homemade tortillas...mangos...macadamia buttter...coffee (cant forget about coffee)...and chocolate, hot chocolate specifically.
Guatemala is known as the birthplace of chocolate, where the Mayans worshipped the Cacao tree and called the cacao plant the "fruit of the gods". The Mayans were onto something, because I would have to agree, Guatemalan chocolate is something special.
Overtime chocolate became woven into many of the traditional Guatemalan, and Latin American dishes, from mole de platano (plantain mole) to tamales negro (black sweet tamales), which is a dish that is traditionally served around Christmas. Even today, chocolate traditionally is mixed into recipes, or served as a drink over being eaten in the form of a chocolate bar that we traditionally think of it as today.
The above hot chocolate bars, for instance, would never be eaten, and would always be dissolved in hot water, and served as a beverage. While I brought many of these bars home with me directly from Guatemala, they can be found at many Spanish grocery stores, or alternatively, the best domestic option I have found is to use these rounds by Taza Chocolate (a local direct trade chocolate company here in New England).
While Guatemala was at one point one of the worlds top cacao/chocolate producers, overtime the economic benefits of sugar cane and coffee caused the cacao industry to suffer and take a back seat. However, recently the Guatemalan chocolate industry has been making a significant comback, and now the country is home to over 9,200 cacao farms, and produced over 10,500 tons of chocolate annually.
The primary variety of cacao that is produced in Guatemala remains to be the criollo, which is one of the oldest known varieties of cacao, and also the rarest. How amazing is that! I love that the chocolate industry in Guatemala has come full circle and maintains true to its traditional routes. It such a big part of what makes this chocolate, and this country so special.
Now, we just need to get more consumers to understand the important behind purchasing their chocolate from a direct trade or fair trade producer. When you purchase chocolate this way, you are directly supporting the small cacao farmer, and are really enabling them to have a voice in the chocolate commodity market, that they wouldn't be able to have otherwise.
I'll never forget walking through a small-organic cacao farm, and learning the process of how chocolate is really produced. It is such a complex journey that requires so many hands that I have never been able to look at chocolate the same way. I really feel that this kind of education, and reconnection to our food, where it comes from, and the people who helped it get there is such a strong piece to developing a strong food culture, and relearning how to respect our food, and the choices we make around it.
Now on to this amazing hot chocolate. Traditionally, at least the way I was taught in Guatemala, the chocolate bar is added to hot boiling water, with cinnamon sticks. It then is stirred until the chocolate has completely melted, and served as a decadent hot chocolate beverage. The key to this hot chocolate though really is the chocolate, so I would highly recommend trying to find the traditional Guatemalan Hot Chocolate Bars (like I pictured above) at a Spanish grocery store or opting for the dark 75% Taza Chocolate.
Once poured, this is the point where some people may add a little more sugar, or a splash of milk or cream. I actually really love adding a dollop of full-fat coconut cream, which I think really balances the smooth chocolate flavor so well. But, if I don't have coconut cream on hand I will drink it just as is, and trust me this absolutely isn't your Nestle Instant Hot Chocolate and Water mix, even mixed alone with water it is one of the most decadent hot chocolates you will ever have.
Traditional Guatemalan Hot Chocolate
makes four servings
1 Guatemalan Hot Chocolate Bar (see the top image above)
4-5 cups water
4 cinnamon sticks
Optional: 1/2 cup coconut cream, milk, or almond milk
Bring the water to boil in a medium saucepan on the stove.
Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add the chocolate bar, and two cinnamon sticks.
Allow the chocolate bar to soften and breakup, and then begin whisking quickly until the mixture is completely smooth.
At this time if you prefer a creamier hot chocolate you can choose to add a little cream, milk, or almond milk. Traditionally in Guatemala it usually is made just using water
Remove hot chocolate from heat, and remove cinnamon sticks.
Pour hot chocolate into four cups, and add cinnamon sticks to hot chocolate.
At this point you can choose to add a splash of milk if you like. I personally love adding a dollop of full-fat coconut cream if I have it on hand. Otherwise I will just drink it plain.