I am a chocoholic. I love the divine bean in all incarnations: cakes and ice cream, cookies and bars. Hell, I’ll cram chocolate into breakfast or booze if I can swing it, not always an easy feat. And of course I love hot chocolate. . . or at least the idea of it.
What could be better on a chilly day than a mug of creamy molten chocolate. It is a heavenly thought. Yet when lip meets mug and I take that first sip disappointment is quick to replace anticipation. The chocolate is too weak, too sweet, too heavy. The milk clings to my throat, thick and cloying. I have a vague sense of being strangled.
All my prejudices against the beverage were challenged, however, when I visited one of London’s top chocolatiers, the great Paul of Paul A. Young Fine Chocolates. “Do you like hot chocolate?” He asked, and not waiting for a response ladled some liquid, thick and black as tar, into a cup and handed it over. “Try it.”
I took a polite sip. And then another. It was unlike anything I’d tasted before. Every cell in my body was dancing, my head was reeling. This chocolate tasted otherworldly; unimaginably rich and complex, the flavour was elusive, shapeshifting. There was citrus and smoke, coffee, hazelnuts and malt.
I asked Paul what was in it.
“Chocolate,” he answered. “No milk, just pure chocolate, a bit of sugar and water.”
So this is why Mayans revered the bean, calling it Theobroma Cacao and ritually drinking it to prepare for everything from an amorous encounter to a vicious battle. It truly is a food of the gods.
My makeshift version cannot rival Paul’s but it is gorgeous nonetheless. Not that you need a recipe, but here it is anyway:
a chunk of top quality, 100% cacao bitter chocolate
2 lumps of raw sugar
1 inch of cinnamon stick (optional)
a mug (wine glass, stein, champagne flute – whatever you fancy) of water
Heat all ingredients together and whisk until dissolved. Adjust components to taste. Pour into cup and imbibe.
Note: As you can see there are little oily bubbles from the cacao butter. Ugly, but take no notice. The taste is all that matters here.