Hot chocolate originated in Mesoamerica, where the indigenous people first cultivated cacao and developed chocolate beverages thousands of years ago. While there are many popular hot chocolate brands today, some of the most iconic ones do indeed come from Mexico.
Some of the most well-known Mexican hot chocolate brands include:
- Taza Chocolate
Of these, Abuelita is likely the most popular and widely available Mexican hot chocolate brand around the world. It has become an iconic symbol of Mexican hot chocolate culture.
The History of Chocolate in Mexico
The story of Mexican hot chocolate begins with the ancient Maya and Aztec civilizations. Cacao plants are indigenous to Mesoamerica, and the earliest use of cacao beans dates back to around 1900-900 BC. The ancient Maya and Aztecs viewed chocolate as a divine gift and developed rituals around its preparation and consumption. Chocolate was an integral part of their culture.
The Aztecs in particular revered cacao and even used the beans as currency. They consumed chocolate drinks made from crushed cacao beans, water, chili peppers, vanilla, other spices and honey or sugar. This spicy, frothy chocolate drink was a luxury item and featured heavily in royal and ceremonial events. It was known as xocolātl in the Nahuatl language.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they were introduced to the chocolate beverages of the Aztecs. While they found the spice unappealing at first, they developed a taste for it over time. Chocolate became popular in Spain and throughout Europe, leading to a huge boom in demand for cacao from Mexico and other parts of Latin America.
Over the next few centuries, chocolate drank recipes evolved. Spices like chili pepper fell out of favor in Europe, while sugar became the preferred sweetener. Hot milk or cream was added to create thick, velvety hot chocolate drinks. New techniques like conching led to smoother chocolates. Mexico continued exporting cacao while developing its own chocolate traditions influenced by European style.
Traditional Mexican Hot Chocolate
Authentic Mexican hot chocolate, known as champurrado, chambuerrado, or chocolate caliente, has a unique flavor profile and preparation method that sets it apart from European-style hot chocolate.
Traditionally, Mexican hot chocolate starts with raw cacao beans that are roasted, de-shelled, and ground into a paste on a molcajete (lava stone mortar and pestle). This paste, known as chocolate de metate, is the base for the drink. It contains the rich flavor and complexity of the cacao bean and retains more nutrients compared to processed chocolate.
The chocolate paste is melted and frothed with hot milk or water. It often contains spices like cinnamon, vanilla or anise for extra flair. The drink has a thick, foamy consistency and is served hot or warm.
Key aspects that make Mexican hot chocolate unique include:
- Use of raw cacao beans or minimally processed chocolate
- Thick, frothy texture
- Warm or hot serving temperature
- Spices for aroma and kick
- Bittersweet flavor profile
Mexican-style hot chocolate is both an art and comfort drink with many regional variations while staying true to its ancestral roots.
Popular Mexican Hot Chocolate Brands
Several Mexican companies produce and distribute hot chocolate mixes, tablets, and beverages that capture the beloved flavors of traditional Mexican hot chocolate. Here are some of the most popular brands:
Abuelita is arguably the most well-known Mexican hot chocolate brand internationally. The company was founded in 1939 and is now owned by Nestlé. Abuelita’s signature product is the Champurrado Mix – chocolate tablets containing sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and starches to thicken the drink. Consumers add the tablets to hot milk or water and whisk into a rich, satisfying hot chocolate.
Abuelita markets itself as an authentic Mexican brand, featuring colorful packaging with Latina women in traditional dresses. It has become a staple in many Latino homes as well as mainstream American households seeking an indulgent chocolate drink.
Ibarra is another very popular Mexican brand established in 1828. Their signature product is the Chocolate Ibarra – circular discs composed of cocoa, sugar, ground almonds, wheat flour, vanilla and cinnamon. The discs are meant to be dissolved in hot milk or water to create a frothy hot chocolate drink.
Ibarra uses an old-fashioned process dating back to the 19th century to create their chocolate discs. The brand has a cult following in Mexico and is also available in specialty Latin food stores around the world. It’s appreciated for its smooth, bittersweet flavor and artisanal quality.
Taza Chocolate is an American company founded in 2005, but they produce Mexican-style stone-ground chocolate from organic cacao beans. Taza has a line of hot chocolate mixes including Classic Mexican, Wicked Hot Maya, and Dark Chocolate Mexicano. These contain stone-ground cacao along with spices and natural flavorings.
Taza’s products aim to provide a modern, sustainable twist on traditional Mesoamerican cacao drinks. Their hot chocolate mixes allow consumers to recreate the textured, aromatic experience of rich Mexican hot chocolate at home.
Kakaw is a chocolate shop based in Mexico City that has been operating since 2015. They handmake gourmet chocolate products using native, sustainably-sourced Mexican cacao varieties. Their hot chocolate mix comes in tablet form, combining cacao, natural vanilla, cane sugar and spices.
Kakaw focuses on ethical, artisanal production methods to create high-quality chocolates that showcase the diversity of Mexican cacao. Their mix allows people to make hot chocolate with distinctly Mexican cacao flavors and aromas.
Mayordomo is another long-standing Mexican chocolate company founded in the late 1800s. Like Ibarra, they are known for their Obleas – thin chocolate wafers made from wheat flour that contain sugar, cocoa and ground almonds. The discs are designed to be dissolved into hot milk for a traditional chocolate drink.
In addition to Obleas, Mayordomo makes Abuelita-style Champurrado chocolate tablets for thick hot chocolate. Their products are staples in Mexican households looking for a taste of nostalgia and home.
Global Availability of Mexican Hot Chocolate
Authentic Mexican hot chocolate brands are widely available in Mexico and the United States, especially in areas with large Hispanic/Latino populations. Major chains like Walmart, Target, and Costco usually carry popular Mexican hot chocolate mixes from brands like Abuelita, Ibarra and Mayordomo.
In the US, they can also be found at Latin grocery stores like El Super, Fiesta Mart, and La Superior. Online retailers like Amazon.com and MexGrocer.com have a broad selection of Mexican chocolate products as well.
Internationally, availability varies. Ibarra and Abuelita have expanded into some foreign markets – Abuelita is produced in Europe for distribution there. But other brands may only be accessible through specialty import stores or online shipping.
Travelers to Mexico can find excellent local hot chocolate mixes at supermarkets and chocolate shops around the country. Oaxaca in particular is renowned for its handmade chocolate produced from cacao grown in the region.
How to Make Mexican Hot Chocolate
Making delicious Mexican hot chocolate is easy with the right ingredients:
From Tablets or Mix:
- Add 2-3 ounces of chocolate tablets or mix to a mug.
- Pour 8-12 ounces of hot milk over. Whole milk or half-and-half work best.
- Whisk thoroughly until the chocolate is completely dissolved.
- Enjoy immediately or reheat as needed. Add desired spices.
- Roast and peel cacao beans, then grind into a paste with a molcajete or food processor.
- Add 2 oz paste per 8 oz milk or water. Add spices like cinnamon, vanilla or chili powder.
- Gently heat the mixture, stirring constantly. Do not boil.
- Froth with a molinillo whisk or electric mixer.
- Serve warm with whipped cream or sweet bread on the side if desired.
Be sure to use good quality chocolate made from cacao beans, not cocoa powder. Whole milk lends the best creaminess, but low-fat or non-dairy milks can also be used. Customize your hot chocolate with your choice of spices, sweeteners, and garnishes.
The Perfect Accompaniments
Mexicans often enjoy hot chocolate alongside various sweet breads or other breakfast foods:
- Churros – fried dough sticks dusted with cinnamon sugar
- Conchas – shell-shaped sweet bread rolls
- Pan dulce – varieties of Mexican sweet bread
- Tamales – savory or sweet masa cakes
- Empanadas – sweet or savory stuffed pastries
Whipped cream is another beloved topping for Mexican hot chocolate, adding extra richness and flair. Some other tasty spices or ingredients to stir in include:
- Cayenne pepper
- Dried chili powder
- Orange zest
- Espresso powder
Feel free to get creative and make your hot chocolate your own!
The Legacy of Mexican Hot Chocolate
Mexican-style hot chocolate has unique historical and cultural significance. It provides a direct link back to the very origins of chocolate itself in ancient Mesoamerica.
The way Mexican hot chocolate is made – from raw cacao beans ground on a metate – reflects the ancestral chocolate preparation methods of the Aztecs, Mayans and others. The spices, textures and flavors evoke centuries of chocolate tradition.
Savoring a cup of Mexican hot chocolate is a sensory experience that provides a window into Mexico’s cuisine, heritage and identity. The rich, spicy sweetness reminds us how chocolate has endured as a cherished indulgence through the ages. Today, iconic brands like Abuelita keep Mexican-style hot chocolate culture thriving around the world.
Mexico has gifted the world some of the most distinctive and crave-worthy hot chocolate. Brands like Abuelita, Ibarra, Mayordomo and others allow everyone to enjoy the authentic flavors of Mexican chocolate culture. Making hot chocolate from traditional chocolate tablets or raw cacao connects us to the very roots of chocolate’s history.
Mexican hot chocolate is the perfect treat for a lazy winter day or as an accompaniment to pan dulce pastries. The next time you want a chocolate fix, consider elevating your hot chocolate experience by going south of the border.