Posted on April 21 2015
The only place in the world where you can see cacao and chocolate so imbedded in every day life is Oaxaca, Mexico. Although 70% of the world’s cacao production is in Africa, Oaxaca has no competition when it comes to daily consumption and use of cacao. Go to any mercado and you will find vendors selling fermented cacao, washed cacao, balam (cacao’s cousin), fermented balam, cacao paste, and they will be making many cacao based drinks. Here are 5 cacao drinks; some you can make at home and some you have to travel to Oaxaca to experience.
5 drinks to try in Oaxaca
- Tejate- You can see women beginning to mix and massage this dough at 8 in the morning! They begin the preparation early but you have to wait until 11am to have the drink which is typically consumed as a snack right before lunch. It begins with a paste made from ground corn, ground cacao, mamey seed, rosita de cacao (flower), and sugar. This paste gets a hand/arm massage while gently adding cold water to it. The process of massaging allows the cocoa butter to be released and creates a "whipped cream" foam. This drink is always made in a large clay pot which serves as a thermic container. Once the ice is added the drink stays cool all afternoon. You can ask them to add sugar if you prefer a sweet drink. They serve you in an organic bowl (made from a dried fruit), drink it while standing in front of the vendor, then give back the bowl and continue with your day. Every woman has a slightly different recipe. You should try all of them before deciding on a favorite.
- Chocolate-Atole – this is not champurrado (atole made with chocolate). This is an entirely different magical drink- the most complicated that exists in all of Mexico and Latin America. This drink is only consumed and made in Oaxaca. The main ingredient is fermented theobroma bicolor beans, a cousin to cacao. They are fermented underground for 5 months until it goes from resembling a seed to resembling chalk. You make a paste with cacao, the fermented bicolor, wheat, rice, and cinnamon. Grind this on a metate, mix this with a little water to make a foam and use this foam on top of a corn based atole. It is a drink that is prepared for rituals and ceremonies and it is difficult to find an authentic preparation.
- Tascalate- This is the lightest and most refreshing of the cacao drinks; it is served cold preferably over ice. The deep red orange color comes from the annatto seeds.
- Chocolate- Ground cacao, cinnamon, sugar and water or milk. Served room temperature or hot. This is the classic drink that every Mexican on the planet drinks/has drunk.
- Champurrado- Corn masa (corn dough), cacao, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar, milk or water. This is the drink that makes my heart warm. On cold days and holidays this is the drink to have. It is extremely filling and rich; like porridge. This is always consumed with pan dulce or tamales.
1/2 kilo of corn masa
1/4 kilo of ash
35 grams of bicolor/balam seeds
1 mamey seeds
20 flowers of cacao (rosita de cacao)
sugar to taste
1. Toast cacao, mamey seed, and flowers, grind on a mortar and pestle. In a large ceramic bowl blend masa and ash using your hands. Mix everything together in large bowl, add cold water gradually. Add sugar and ice once you are done adding water.
FOR THE FOAM:
1 cup of cacao beans
1/2 cup of fermented balam/bicolor/pataxte beans
1/2 uncooked rice
1/2 wheat berries
1 tablespoon of Mexican cinnamon (ceylon)
1.Toast the cacao and the balam, set aside and allow to cool to remove the husks. Toast the rice on low heat until it become light brown, let cool then grind in a spice grinder or on your metate. Next, grind the wheat berries to the same fine consistency as the rice. Blend all ingredients together, best is to pass through a molino or metate but a food processor will also work. Blend everything into a paste, add a bit of water at a time until a soft paste is formed. Place the paste in a bowl and add about 2 cups of cold water, mix with a molinillo until you develop a lot of froth. Watch this video for a visual of the process.
FOR THE ATOLE:
1lb of dried corn (maize)
2-4 cups of water
sugar to taste
1. Boil the corn in the water and once it is soft, liquefy, strain and continue to boil with the sugar until the becomes thick.
This pre-prepared mix can be found in most Latin American grocery stores but creating this from scratch is simple and you can store the dry powder up to 2 months.10 corn tortillas toasted and ground to a powder.
10 toasted and peeled cacao beans (better if you toast these yourself which means you have to buy them with the husk on).
5g ceylon cinnamon powder (small cinnamon stick is better, fresher and you are able to toast it).
3g annatto (achiote) paste
Sugar to taste- you can used refined white sugar, brown sugar, or panela.
You will use 2-3 tablespoons of this mix per cup of water.
Toast the tortillas, cacao, and cinnamon stick. Remove the husk from the cacao bean and place these items plus the achiote in a food processor. Grind until fine. This is the base of your drink and you can store it like this up to 2 months. When you are ready to enjoy, place 2 tablespoons of your mix in a cup of water, add sugar to taste, dissolve with a molinillo or whisk then add ice.
Traditional Mexican Hot Chocolate Recipe
The prepared mix for this is sold everywhere in the USA and Mexico. The most famous brands are Abuelita and Ibarra but they are lesser quality and use a very strong cinnamon substitute that is very unpleasant. If you are going to buy a prepared mix Mayordomo is the best brand from Mexico, in the USA there is Taza Chocolate with some gourmet options:Chocolate Mayordomo El Oro De Oaxaca Premium 100% Natural De Oaxaca Mexico 1 Kg
This is the most widely drunk cacao beverage in Mexico and it is simply called 'chocolate'. Children might drink this before going to school or as an afternoon snack. In my house it was Sunday morning brunch along with Mexican sweet bread. This can be milk or water based.
500g of cacao beans
500g of sugar (you can adjust this, some people have this with zero sugar)
1 ceylon cinnamon stick
Toast cacao beans and cinnamon stick in the oven or stove top in a pan; stir constantly and don't allow to burn. Once they are brown remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once they are cool enough to touch, remove the husk. You have to finely grind the cacao, cinnamon, and sugar. If you are not using sugar, only grind the first two ingredients. This can be done on a spice grinder, juicer, metate, molino, or mortar and pestle. The heat and friction will help melt the natural cocoa butter in the beans and it will become liquid. This is the base for your drink.
30 grams or 2 tablespoons of this paste is enough for 1 cup of milk or water. Boil 1 cup of liquid and add the chocolate. Mix with a blender or molinillo. I would suggest you try it with water once then with milk. The water based drink is much more intense and this is the most common way to drink chocolate in Latin America. You can save the remainder of your paste; roll into small balls so it’s easier to melt next time. These will keep for a year in a dark, airtight container.
Both atole and champurrado are masa based drinks. A champurrado is an atole with chocolate. These are the most ubiquitous corn based drinks in Mexico and the most popular after the traditional Mexican hot chocolate. This is the drink we make the most in my family and I dedicated a more thorough post here to the drink.
Coconut Atole & Champurrado recipe
- 2 cups whole milk (or water), I prefer milk but you can absolutely do this with all water or all coconut milk or any other type of milk substitute.
- 1/2 cup of water
- 4 oz. masa
- 1 can of coconut milk
- 1 large piloncillo or 1 cup of brown sugar (you can adjust the sweetness level)
- 1/2 cup of shredded coconut- optional
- 1 cinnamon stick- optional
For the champurrado, replace the coconut milk and shredded coconut with 50 g (2oz) of chocolate. I added Dandelion 85% dark chocolate from Camino Verde Ecuador.
- Dissolve the masa in 1 cup of your milk or water. Since I keep my masa balls in the freezer, I have them pre-measured to make 1-2 cups of atole. Use your hands to help it dissolve.
- In a pot place the water, sugar, chocolate (if using), cinnamon (if using) and heat to dissolve everything.
- Strain the mix into the pot.You will have left over corn masa, use the remainder of your milk to dissolve this again.
- You can add all your ingredients now and let heat slowly. You want this liquid to come to a boil but not to spill over or burn.
- Allow to thicken, about 20 minutes. Stir constantly.
- If it doesn’t want to thicken it means that it does not have enough masa. Dissolve a little bit more in milk or water and add strained. If it thickens too much add more liquid. The correct consistency is egg nog-like. But you can prepare thinner. Consume immediately. Preferably with tamales. You can let cool and refrigerate up to 2 days but when you reheat you will need to add more liquid.
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