Chocolate is a famous “New World” food. When the Spanish invaded Mexico in the 1500’s they noted that the Aztecs and other indigenous groups drank a hot beverage made from bitter cocoa beans. It wasn’t long after that chocolate became a European obsession.
I was recently traveling in Oaxaca, Mexico. The state of Oaxaca is the home of the Zapotecas and
over twenty other indigenous groups. The colonial architecture of the town is centuries old and filled with charming, warm people. Craftspeople sell their wares at street-side markets, and the stores and large mercados are filled with local products. Wool rugs hand woven with yarn dipped in natural dyes, fanciful wood carvings, silver jewelry, tin work, straw woven goods, black-clay pottery and green-glazed ceramics are some of the many arts and crafts for which Oaxaca is famous. One of the foods Oaxaca is known for is chocolate. Traveling down the streets (calles Aldama y Mina) between 2 large markets, Mercado Juarezand the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, I could smell chocolate. Following the scent, I found a street with several chocolate shops which though appearing very similar, boasted of their special blend of chocolate. My favorites are La Soledad and Mayordomo. Here are photos of a chocolate store and a photo showing a woman (her hands) mixing the chocolate in a typical Oaxacan green-glazed ceramic pitcher. Note the handmade wooden chocolate wisk.
Day after day I visited chocolate stands, stores and tried chocolate drinks at most every opportunity. What a great trip! Here’s what I discovered — I love chocolate with water (Chocolate con Agua).
Here’s the recipe for 2 servings:
Tools: Blender / Vitamix or whisk
Chocolate with Water
- One 42 gram (that’s about 1.5 oz.) of Mexican Oaxacan chocolate in the shape of a disc. OR 1 large disc – In the U.S. the brands Abuelita or Ibara are most common. I consider this ingredient to be the “sugar”.
- To make mine less sweet I then add about 1.5 or 2 oz of dark bar chocolate (at least 50% – 100% cocoa).
- 2 Cups Boiling water
Put all ingredients in a blender, secure cover and start on low. Blend until mixture is smooth and frothy. Pour and serve immediately. The traditional Oaxacan method is to blend the chocolate in a pitcher with a wood wisk designed for this purpose.
- Oaxacan chocolate comes in bars flavored with Coffee, Cinnamon, Vanilla or 100% bitter Chocolate. You can use a good brand of high quality of chocolate bar such as Giradelli, Lindt, or Green & Black as a substitute.
- If the drink is too watery for you, add more chocolate!
- Remember the movie, Like Water for Chocolate? Not only is the movie wonderful, the title is a reminder of a important cooking tip if you’re not using a blender or hand mixer: Before you mix your chocolate into milk, gently blend the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with a small amount of water until it’s smooth, then add milk or water.
- The photos below show a typical chocolate store. A worker would scoop chocolate beans into the steel machines against the wall. They would mix with sugar and spices. The result was a deep rich brown mixture that resembled fresh turned farm soil. How beautiful! ¡Que linda!
All photos and text ©Cristina Acosta