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A Jumbo Guide to Hot Chocolate

With the days quickly getting colder, each morning I feel like I wake up with more of a reason to enjoy one of the best parts of winter: hot chocolate. The history of drinking chocolate interlaces with the history of chocolate itself since way back when chocolate was really only experienced in beverage form.  To Aztecs, cocoa beans were considered a kind of currency because of their value. The beans were also roasted into a cold chocolate drink, flavored with wine and chili peppers. Consumption of that drink was a symbol of prestige and power. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that chocolate as we know it today was produced.

The feelings associated with drinking hot chocolate can be compared to the empowering qualities chocolate used to possess historically. As we all know, there are few things as warm, comforting and invigorating during a chilly Boston night as a rich cup of hot chocolate. I’m here to give you some exciting facts about hot cocoa, introduce some of the best recipes I’ve found, and offer up some places to go grab some for those too busy to attempt making some themselves.

Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate

What? Hot chocolate is good for you? It seems too good to be true. But alas, as long as you’re drinking the real stuff (bye bye, Swiss-Miss), hot cocoa has proved to provide many lasting health benefits.

Antioxidant Concentration

The levels of antioxidants in a cup of hot chocolate is nearly twice as much as that of red wine, and two to three times as much as that of green tea.

Improved Blood Pressure and Heart Health

The flavonoids (plant-based compounds) found in chocolate have been shown to improve blood flow, which helps in good heart health and keeping a healthy blood pressure.

Improved Cognitive Abilities

The American Association for the Advancement of Science has begun research into the idea that the flavonoids in chocolate could also be a good treatment for dementia, since it’s been shown to be caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

So the next time you think about skipping out on a cup of sipping chocolate for the sake of your health, think again. And keep reading for some delicious recipes and recommendations.

Homemade Hot Chocolate

Source: Smile and Sprinkles

Source: Smile and Sprinkles

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

If there’s a signature winter flavor, it’s peppermint. For me, the cleansing, cooling taste of peppermint practically sets off a nostalgic reaction to every lovely winter memory I’ve ever had. Winter without peppermint treats is like the Rez being out of red velvet muffins. A tragedy. And luckily, peppermint and chocolate make the perfect combination. When you’re not reaching for some traditional peppermint bark this holiday season, I’d suggest trying out this hot chocolate recipe. And if you want to get fancy, add in these marshmallows for added peppermint worshipping.

Source: Zested

Source: Zested

Wicked Hot Chocolate

This twist on hot chocolate usually adds spices like cinnamon and chili pepper to give your warm pick-me-up an extra kick. Wicked hot chocolate is a good choice for those who don’t feel the need to make their hot chocolate any sweeter, but are still looking for that extra something. If I could, I’d have my house always smell like a big cup of wicked hot chocolate. The spices are just irresistible. Try this recipe if you’re in the mood.

Source: Savory Sweet Life

Source: Savory Sweet Life

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

If you scoffed at that last part when I talked about hot chocolate being sufficiently sweet for you, a salted caramel option may be for you. I am always adding salt to my caramel, but if that’s a little too much for you, the sugary substance alone will produce the same dizzying effect. I’d suggest this recipe  with the replacement of your own, homemade caramel instead of a store bought version. If you need help on how to do that, go for this tutorial, which provides helpful tips for those first-time caramel junkies.

Hot Chocolate In the Neighborhood

Don’t have time to spend a night in cooking a pot of delicious hot chocolate but still want to reap the benefits? Try some of these shops that have perfected their recipes to produce an awe-inducing drink.

Davis Square: Diesel Café

Good old Diesel Café offers a delicious cup of original hot chocolate called “Tuck’s Turtle”, which features hazelnut, caramel and whipped cream. This Tufts gem also provides a great environment or workspace with costly wi-fi. What better way to keep a Jumbo off of Tufts Confessions when they should be writing a paper?

Diesel Café. 257 Elm St., Somerville, MA (617) 629-8717, www.diesel-cafe.com.

Harvard Square: L.A. Burdick

To many, L.A. Burdick is the mecca of hot chocolate in Boston. Offering up lots of gourmet drinking chocolates, L.A. Burdick is unbeatable if you have time, a few extra dollars to spare, and a desire to experience rich, real, high-quality chocolate in a cup.

L.A. Burdick. 52 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA (617) 491-4340, www.burdickchocolate.com. 

Porter Square: Simon’s Coffee Shop

Simon’s in Porter makes a mean Mexican hot chocolate, but the real fun about this place is its secret peppermint hot chocolate. While not advertised or listed on the menu, the baristas are always ready to make a cup for anyone who asks. Give it a try!

Simon’s Coffee Shop. 1736 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA (617) 497-7766. 

I hope I have left you everything you need to know for this season, as hot chocolate is an invaluable weapon for fighting the next freezing four months. Good luck, and enjoy!

-Susie Church

Cover photo source.

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