Why hot chocolate is the ideal winter drink

Hot chocolate is consumed around the world in diverse ways but no matter how you enjoy it, it’s a great winter warmer. In Australia, it’s popular in cafés around the country as an alternative to drinking coffee or tea, and great for younger people who want to limit caffeine but still experience a café style drink.

It is also associated with open fires in winter, complete with marshmallows. But not all hot chocolate drinks in Australia are the same, ranging from molten chocolate mixed with warm milk in upmarket cafés to the powdered form bought in supermarkets, and everything in between.

The origins of hot chocolate

Hot chocolate has a long history dating back about 3,000 years. The first chocolate drink is believed to have been created by the Maya in the area we now call Central America around 2,500 to 3,000 years ago. A cocoa drink was an essential part of Aztec culture by 1400 AD. They used chocolate to show high status, and it was a bad omen for someone low or common to drink chocolate.

Hot chocolate first came to Europe, when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was credited with bringing cocoa beans and chocolate drink-making equipment back to Spain in 1528 after he defeated the Aztecs.

At that time, chocolate still only existed as the bitter drink invented by the Mayas. After its introduction to Europe, the drink slowly gained popularity among the upper echelons of society. The Royal Court of Emperor Charles V soon adopted the drink and became a fashionable drink popular with the Spanish upper class.

Sweet-tasting hot chocolate was then invented, leading hot chocolate to become a luxury item among the European nobility by the 17th century, and it was often mixed with spices for flavour.

A breakthrough came in 1828 when a Dutchman developed the first cocoa powder producing machine making it easier to stir into milk and water. While in current times we see hot chocolate as a café drink, until the 19th century, hot chocolate was used medicinally to treat ailments such as liver and stomach diseases.

Hot chocolate around the world

Hot chocolate is consumed in many parts of the world in multiple variations. This includes the spiced chocolate para mesa of Latin America, the very thick Cioccolata Calda served in Italy and Chocolate a la Taza served in Spain, and the thinner hot cocoa consumed in the United States and the UK.

The Spanish are also responsible for Chocolate Caliente, where a churro is dipped into rich and thick hot chocolate.

In Hungary there is the Forró Csokoládé that is spiced with paprika, white pepper and cloves. While in Colombia, the local variation known as Chocolate Santafereño includes a chunk of cheese!

In Belgium, hot chocolate is called Warme Chocolademelk and of course made from the world-famous Belgian chocolate. Hot chocolate is also popular in the Philippines where it is called Tsokolate and made with a block of chocolate and then frothed.

And as you would expect, India has a Chai Hot Chocolate that includes a hint of spices.

In the original home of hot chocolate – Mexico, hot chocolate remains a popular drink, often including semi-sweet chocolate, cinnamon, sugar, and vanilla. It is commonly sold in circular or hexagonal tablets which are dissolved into hot milk, water, or cream, and then blended until the mixture develops a creamy froth. In the United States and Canada, hot chocolate is a popular drink in instant form, made with hot water or milk from a powder made from cocoa powder, sugar, and dry milk. It is sweet and often topped with marshmallows, whipped cream, or a piece of solid chocolate.

Hot chocolate in Australia

It is likely that hot chocolate was consumed in Australia by wealthy white settlers from the early days of the colony. In the 17th and 18th centuries, hot chocolate was a luxury item for London’s wealthy, consumed in chocolate houses where they gathered to socialise. Prepared with spices and exotic flavours, it was rich and sweet thanks to the addition of sugar. It was only consumed by the rich because it was an expensive commodity, and chocolate houses often charged an entry fee as well as for the product.

In current day Australia hot chocolate is a popular café drink and is also consumed at home. According to research by Roy Morgan younger Australians are more likely to drink hot chocolate than coffee or tea in an average week than their older counterparts. Nearly a fifth of Generation Z (19.5 per cent) drink hot chocolate in an average week compared to only 7.3 per cent of older Australians.

Australian made premium drinking chocolate

Steric’s Sunshine Drinking Chocolate is used to make delicious hot chocolate, refreshing iced chocolate, chocolate milkshakes, or sprinkled on a hot, barista-made cappuccino.

Sunshine Drinking Chocolate is available in a one kilogram container for the foodservice industry. It can be ordered via Steric’s distributors. Contact Steric at or 1800 008 155.