Are you looking to add a little more depth to your studies about Ancient Mayan History Lessons? Want to bring history to life and taste a little of the past? Then this recipe for hot chocolate is great to get hands-on and learn a little at the same time. So read on to discover a little more about the origins of chocolate and how to make your own Mayan Chocolate drink and more about this gift from the gods.
What You'll Find on This Page
Learning About Ancient Mayan
In the UK National Curriculum Ancient Maya is one of the areas that can be studied as part of looking at a contrasting civilization to Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. It comes in Key Stage 2 normally in Year 5 or 6.
In our home education journey, we are studying it alongside Ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and The Tudors as it spans the whole scope of these times.
Origins of Chocolate
Chocolate comes from Mesoamerica.
It is believed that the Olmec civilisation passed on how to grow, harvest and roast Cacao Beans and how to make xocolatl, but it was the Mayan Civilisation that perfected it, drank it as an everyday drink, and also in rituals to their gods.
When the Spanish invaded they discovered the drink and brought it back to Europe. There it became a drink of the rich and powerful, but as it was so bitter they added in honey, vanilla, and later sugar to sweeten it and mixed it with milk, not water.
The hot cocoa drink we have today may have originated with the Mayan civilisation but it tastes very different to the xocolatl drink from the Ancient Civilisation.
Why not build a Mayan Pyramid whilst learning about Ancient Maya drinks.
From Cacao Bean to Hot Cocoa
The cacao bean grows on a tree in central America. But it doesn’t look anything like a bar of chocolate or even a cacao bean that you may have seen for cooking.
Once the pod is picked from the tea it’s then opened up and the cacao beans are left to ferment and dry out then they are roasted.
As they roast the beans dry out further and start to open up, the shell or husk is then separated from the actual bean inside leaving a softer bean that can be ground easier.
This bean is then ground to a paste to make the drink.
What is Mayan Hot Chocolate Made From?
Once the cacao beans have been ground this paste is mixed with spices like chilli then added to hot water.
In the time of the Ancient Mayans (around 600 BC to AD 1546), there was no sugar or milk. So only water was used and honey occasionally to sweeten the mixture.
It’s then made frothy by pouring the mixture backward and forward between pots. No whisks were invented at this time, so a lot of work to create the drink.
What Does the Mayan Drink Xocolatl Taste Like?
Unlike today’s hot chocolate or hot cocoa drinks, Xocolatl is very bitter, more like dark chocolate than milk that we are more used to.
We actually tasted it in Mexico back in 2019 when we travelled around the Yucatan Peninsula. In one of the ruins, there was a tasting experience, maize tortillas and Mayan hot cocoa were served to give an idea of what the diet was like.
Knowing what it was like and how bitter it was we added honey and vanilla extract to make ours a little more palatable but it was still too bitter for our taste buds.
What Ingredients will you need to make Mayan Hot Chocolate?
We don’t have access to cacao beans but have found cacao nibs that are perfect for using with kids to make the drink.
Love bringing history to life with recipes then you have to try our Viking Bread recipe.
Making this Mayan Recipe with a Class
If you are a teacher and want to make this recipe with a class. I would suggest that the students work in small groups (4 children) to grind the cacao nibs. It is hard work and students will tired.
Whilst they grind the book mentioned above is great to read from and will give them a feel of the Ancient Mayan Folktales.
If you give each group the amount above there will be enough for 2 small cups but probably like us you will find that most of them won’t like it to drink. But it’s the experience, and a quick taste is always good.
How to Make Xocolatl Drink Like Ancient Mayan
This drink will take a little while to make, even when it was made regularly the Mayan would have to spend time grinding the beans using stones to a paste.
Whilst they did this they would pass on stories and tales to pass the time. You can find some stories in this fantastic book (Amazon UK and Amazon US) and as you grind the cacao nibs read aloud together.
We found it much easier to make the paste by adding a little water into our pestle and mortar, it’s really quite hard work to grind them.
Once ground to what we thought was a smooth paste it was time to mix up the paste with the boiling water, honey and vanilla (keep these to hand to sweeten a little if needed).
Then it was poured from jug to jug – yes it was a little messy but this mixes and makes it a little frothy.
Then pour it through a sieve to remove the unground cacao nibs there will be a lot of them.
Now it’s time to taste pour into a small cup and try it for yourself.
The full recipe can be found below in the recipe card.
How to Make Mayan Hot Chocolate with Kids
Bring history to life by exploring what life was like in Ancient Mayan times by creating a hot chocolate drink similar to how they would have made. This Xocolatl drink
3.45 from 9 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 45 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 2 cups
Pestle and Mortar
- 1 handfull Cacao Nibs
- ½ pint hot water
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Place the cacao nibs in the pestle and mortar and start to grind.
As the powder is formed add a little water to help create the paste easier.
After a good while grinding the cacao nibs you will have a smoothish paste. Add this to one of the jugs.
Pour the honey and vanilla extract into the paste and then add in just under 1/2 pint of hot water. Now stir to combine.
It's time to make the mixture frothy, pass the mixture from one jug to another noting the bubbles and froth that forms.
Once you have it a little forthy pour into a cup through a sieve to catch all of the cacao nibs that weren't fully ground.
Keyword Ancient Mayan Hot Chocolate, Mayan Chocolate Drink, Xocolatl Drink
Cerys is a marine biologist, environmental educator, teacher, mum, and home educator from the UK. She loves getting creative, whether it is with simple and easy crafts and ideas, activities to make learning fun, or delicious recipes that you and your kids can cook together you'll find them all shared here on Rainy Day Mum.
The first chocolate drink is believed to have been created by the Maya around 2,500–3,000 years ago, and a cocoa drink was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD, by which they referred to as xocōlātl.What was used to make hot chocolate in ancient Maya times? ›
What was used to make hot chocolate in ancient Maya times? Accept: Ground cacao (with milk, cinnamon and chilli) was used to make hot chocolate.How did the Mayans make the chocolate drink? ›
The ancient chocolate drink tasted much different than what most of us know as chocolate today. It was a bitter drink, served hot and frothy made from ground caco (the dried beans of caco pods from the Theobroma caco tree), cinnamon, vanilla, dried roasted chili peppers, and sometimes with honey as a sweetener.What is Mayan hot chocolate made from? ›
What is it? Mayan Hot Chocolate or cacao is a creamy, bitter drink made with minimally processed, unsweetened chocolate, chili peppers, and aromatic spices such as allspice and ground cinnamon.What are some facts about Mayan chocolate? ›
Despite chocolate's importance in Mayan culture, it wasn't reserved for the wealthy and powerful, but was readily available to almost everyone. In many Mayan households, chocolate was enjoyed with every meal. Mayan chocolate was thick and frothy and often combined with chili peppers, honey or water.What is Mayan hot chocolate called? ›
Xocolatl originated in Mayan culture and is the original hot chocolate drink. It was the preserve of the wealthy, royals or nobility, but they also served it to warriors to give them energy. They enjoyed it bitter and usually served it cold.Why was Mayan chocolate so important? ›
The Mayans and the Aztecs believed (and perhaps some people still do) that chocolate was a gift from the gods. The Aztecs in particular revered the drink - they gave it to victorious warriors after battle, would use it during religious rituals, and even used cacao beans as currency.What is the history of Mexican hot chocolate? ›
It is also called Mexican hot chocolate and is thought to originate from Mexico's ancient civilizations. The Aztecs and Mayans blended cocoa beans and vanilla to create an energizing drink. The main ingredient is less intense than dark chocolate and there are many variations, ranging from sweet to spicy.What are 5 interesting facts about hot cocoa? ›
- IT DATES BACK THOUSANDS OF YEARS. ...
- IT WASN'T ALWAYS HOT—OR SWEET. ...
- IT WAS BELIEVED TO HAVE MEDICINAL PROPERTIES. ...
- IT WAS THE SOURCE OF RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY. ...
- IT WAS SERVED IN FANCY PITCHERS. ...
- REVOLUTIONARY WAR SOLDIERS HAD IT IN THEIR RATIONS. ...
- THOMAS JEFFERSON WAS A BIG FAN.
Balché is a mildly intoxicating beverage that was commonly consumed by the ancient Maya in what is now Mexico and upper Central America. Today, it is still common among the Yucatec Maya. The drink is made from the bark of a leguminous tree, Lonchocarpus violaceus, which is soaked in honey and water, and fermented.
An ancient Toltec myth identifies Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god, as planter of the cacao trees in the tropics of southern Mexico. He was called "the god of light, the giver of the drink of the gods, chocolate." Both the Mayas and Aztecs regarded chocolate as a potent aphrodisiac.What did the Mayans like to add to their chocolate drink? ›
During the Mayan period, people usually consumed chocolate as a bitter and spicy drink. This is because rather than adding sugar, they added cornmeal and chillies to the cacao to get the spicy flavor.What makes Mexican hot chocolate different? ›
The difference between Mexican Hot Chocolate and the standard American hot chocolate is the addition of spices such as cinnamon and chili powder. Some Mexican Hot Chocolates are made with bittersweet chocolate also. Making the resulting drink much less sweet than the Americanized versions.Why is Mexican hot chocolate different? ›
Mexican hot chocolate contains spices like cinnamon and chili and chopped bittersweet chocolate to create a very rich but less sweet flavor. Whereas traditional American hot chocolate is usually made with a combination of cocoa powder and/or chocolate and tends to be more on the sweet side.Why is chocolate important in Mexican culture? ›
The history of chocolate in Mexico can be traced back to ancient civilizations and their deep roots. Cacao was considered a gift from the gods and was used for healing, spiritual ceremonies, and as a form of currency.What is the history of chocolate? ›
The history of chocolate can be traced back more than 3,000 years to the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec people who prepared a beverage from the fruit of the cocoa bean. The Maya considered chocolate to be the food of the gods, held the cacao tree to be sacred, and buried dignitaries with bowls of chocolate.What does cacao mean in Mayan? ›
The word “cacao” itself comes from the Mayan word for the bean, “Ka'kau”, while our word “Chocolate” derives from the Mayan verb “Chocol'ha”, or “to drink cacao”, combined with the Aztec word “atl”, or water, a combination that was probably created by the Spanish during their conquests of Central America.What is Mexican hot chocolate made of? ›
Traditional Mexican hot chocolate combines ground, unsweetened cacao nibs (bits of dried cocoa pod seeds) with water, sugar, and spice — primarily cinnamon.Did Mexico invent hot chocolate? ›
It Started in Mexico
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.
History. Chocolate's popularity began in ancient Mexico and Central America, where the cacao tree grew wild. The Maya and Aztec peoples prepared a hot, bitter drink with cocoa beans. In 1519 the Aztec emperor Montezuma II served the Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés a chocolate drink called xocoatl.
The Maya are credited with inventing hot chocolate, although their version was extremely spicy and bitter by today's standards.How was Mexican hot chocolate invented? ›
According to Alarcon, this traditional recipe can be traced back to Mexico's ancient civilizations, such as the Aztecs and Mayans, who blended cocoa beans with vanilla to make an energizing drink.What are some facts about Mexican chocolate? ›
At its most basic, Mexican chocolate is made from coarsely ground cacao, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Chiles, nuts, and spices can also be worked into the mix, resulting in a complex, intense flavor. Besides its added ingredients, Mexican chocolate also has a more rustic texture than many other styles of chocolate.What culture invented hot chocolate? ›
The ancient ancestor of hot chocolate dates back thousands of years to the Aztec, Olmec, and Mayan cultures of what is today Mexico and Central America. Though made from cocoa, this early cocoa-based drink was neither hot nor very chocolatey—at least, not by today's Hershey-fied standards.How can I make hot chocolate more interesting? ›
Sweet add-ins include marshmallows, whipped cream, caramel, flavored spreads, and maple syrup. To transform cocoa into a cocktail, add flavored liqueurs or traditional spirits. Other unique ways to liven up hot chocolate include adding coffee, spices, and extracts.What are 3 foods of the Mayan tradition? ›
Ancient Maya diet was mostly maize, squash, beans (the 'Three Sisters,') and chili peppers. Of these, maize was most popular, and they ground it up and made tortillas to wrap meat and beans in. Chili peppers, tomatoes, avocado, pineapple, pumpkin and sweet potatoes were grown by tree-cropping.What did the Mayans eat for dessert? ›
One of the few foods that we today would consider sweet was chocolate. It is likely that the Mayans ate chocolate-based foods as dessert.What fruit did the Mayans eat? ›
The Maya also grew and ate apples, pineapples, papaya, guavas, tomatoes, vanilla beans, and avocadoes.How old is Mayan chocolate? ›
The ancient Mayan tradition of chocolate making is a 2,500-year-old cultural legacy kept alive by dedicated farmers, roasters and chocolatiers.What food did the Maya considered a gift from the gods? ›
For the Maya, cacao was a sacred gift of the gods, and cacao beans were used as currency. Ek Chuah, the Maya god of merchants and trade, was also the patron of the cacao crop. When the Spanish invaded Maya lands in the 1500s, they adopted the beverage, adding sugar and milk to make it sweet and creamy.
The history of chocolate began in Mesoamerica. Fermented beverages made from chocolate date back to at least 1900 BC to 1500 BC. The Mexica believed that cacao seeds were the gift of Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency.Where did Mexican hot chocolate originate from? ›
It is also called Mexican hot chocolate and is thought to originate from Mexico's ancient civilizations. The Aztecs and Mayans blended cocoa beans and vanilla to create an energizing drink. The main ingredient is less intense than dark chocolate and there are many variations, ranging from sweet to spicy.What was Mayan chocolate? ›
Mesoamerican chocolate was very different from the sweet and creamy treat of today! During the Mayan period, people usually consumed chocolate as a bitter and spicy drink. This is because rather than adding sugar, they added cornmeal and chillies to the cacao to get the spicy flavor.What did the Mayan use chocolate for? ›
The Mayans called the drink “chocolhaa” (“bitter water”) and Aztecs called it “Xocolatl.” From those words eventually evolved the word “chocolate.” Cacao was used in special celebrations such as those for funeral rituals, war, or harvests.What is the history of the chocolate? ›
Chocolate's 4,000-year history began in ancient Mesoamerica, present day Mexico. It's here that the first cacao plants were found. The Olmec, one of the earliest civilizations in Latin America, were the first to turn the cacao plant into chocolate. They drank their chocolate during rituals and used it as medicine.What is the history of chocolate in Mexico? ›
Chocolate's Ancient Origins
It all began here, in Mesoamerica, where the cacao tree is native and has perfect growing conditions. The first form of chocolate used in Mexico came in the form of beverage flavored with corn, honey, chilies and more. And that goes back as far as the 450BC.