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.
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
- Pestle and Mortar
- 2 jugs
- 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.
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.