Mayan Chocolate Drink

Picture of Mayan Chocolate Drink
Chocolate was first cultivated by the Ancient Mayans, however the way they consumed it was not much like the sweet treats we know today. Their preferred method of consumption was a thick, bitter, frothy drink served cold. This instructable chronicles my attempt to make such a beverage.

I feel the need to point out that this is more of a historical experiment than a recipe. The results will most likely not be to the taste of modern people. However, if you're interested in experiencing the past through your taste buds (however painful the process ~.^) read on!
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Step 1: Ingredients

Picture of Ingredients
First of all, we need to gather our ingredients. We need:
- 1/2 cup raw cocoa beans
- 2 medium sized dried chilis
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- ~6-8 cups water
- honey to taste (optional, and not entirely accurate)

This will make about 4 mugs worth of the concoction. I made it a mug at a time trying to refine the recipe. More on that later.

Yes, the picture shows cinnamon sticks, and my original attempt involved grinding the sticks in my mortar & pestle with everything else, however, unless you are an authenticity masochist (which I occasionally am) I recommend using ground cinnamon. Grinding sticks in a mortar and pestle is hard as heck, and trust me, you'll be doing enough grinding. (Also, I'm not sure cinnamon is entirely accurate, but I'm not going to sweat that now)

The only ingredient that I anticipated having trouble finding was the raw cocoa beans, however I found them quite easily at my local health food store. The package billed them as a "raw superfood" so I tried one raw. I don't recommend it... Moving on...
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ben.caleb1 month ago
I eat raw cacao beans every morning. No drink or added stuff. I peel and chew. It was bitter at first. I've grow to love the taste. It's pure chocolate after all. My nine year old daughter eats one with me most mornings as well. So ignore the author. (-: this is a fine food to eat plain b
jerami1 year ago
Coming from a brewing perspective - I feel a secondary fermentation process would drastically change the dynamic of the drink. First, if you were to brew this, you would need to add enzymes, and a sugar or starch (such as the corn) to make it ferment. The end result would probably knock your socks off because it would not only contain all of the above flavors, and have some alcohol content, but you will end up with a zesty frothiness created naturally gases (co2) which are a byproduct of the fermentation process; and you could ferment it to taste (leaving an optimal amount of sugars). Fermented to dryness, you could also let it sit for a few weeks to a few months in the jungle heat without worring of bacterial spoilage, and the taste would become smoothier, like a malt taste, as the acids and/or tannins mellowed out.
agrady19951 year ago
Ok bare with me. The recipie sounds good, except the cornmeal. You need a very liquidius drink to be able to froth it. But it has to have something basic (soapy) to make bubbles. So the corn meal balances the pH. And after you have that all heated up and mixed, turn the heat off, and put it in a sterile environment (so no mold) for however many hours it takes (with air acess breeze if possible) to become dry or pasty, like a thick dirt. When it's ready you should be able to break it up like dry cooked rice. Take this, and let it dry further after being spread out on pans. In full sunlight, let dry until moisture is almost gone (just feel it) finally, grind it up further, and use as coffee grounds in an espresso machine. This keeps the taste and gives the froth. But I believe there was blood in it from a sacrificial animal. I'm site that effects the taste, but I'm not going that far. Let me know!
BrenBren3 years ago
Masa is different from cornmeal in a couple ways, obviously it's much finer, but it's also made from Hominy (nixtamalized corn) which has quite a different flavour (ie the flavour of tamales or corn tortillas). Not sure what is more historically accurate, but Mexican Atole uses masa.

Grinding the beans: I know an old Samoan lady who makes a drink called Koko Samoa, which is pan roasted cocoa beans that are ground, re-formed, and dried, then later grated into boiling water with sugar; it is delicious! But my point is that to grind the beans, she uses a glass bottle full of water and a tupperware container - says it works way better than a mortar and pestle. Maybe it's worth a try?
lvilla73 years ago
A+ for the effort and willingness to go through the whole experiment.
Some ideas:
1.- Roast cocoa beans at a lower temperature for a longer time. Burnt beans will taste bad. that alone could ruin the whole thing.
2.- Use just a little chile, and bea in mind that there are many different types of chiles. Some are smoky, some add color, some are very hot.
3.- Use just a little corn flour or masa so it won't thicken too much
4.- to make it froth in Mexico we use a molinillo or Mexican Whisk (see pic). It is moved between the palms of your hands and will surely make it froth. A modern approach woudl be to use a Moulinex type submersible blender.
While most historians say that chocolate was consumed in a wasy similar to what you made, others say that honey or agave nectar was used to sweeten it.
Good Luck!
acoleman33 years ago
very interesting. i may like it actually cus i like flavors such as this. i remember back in job corps, they had packets of hot chocolate and id put a couple dashes of tobasco in it to give it some "kick". i loved the humor you put in this and good show on your procedures.
godbacon3 years ago
I love it!

I think your meant to let it stand for a day.. (ferment) add a pinch of yeast or leave it on the porch in the wind.

oh and cooking over an open fire would add a bit of smoke and wood ash (alkaline) to mellow out the acids and help convert the corn.
things cooked out doors taste different...

love it!
(removed by author or community request)
Glomgrey (author)  DELETED_deyb13 years ago
You're definitely right about the beans being fermented, that's how they get the fleshy outsides off them after they're harvested, so they had already gone through that fermentation process by the time I got them. That's probably why they had that weird slightly wine-y smell before they were roasted :)
Glomgrey (author)  godbacon3 years ago
hehe somehow wood ash doesn't sound that appetizing either ;)
sendai3 years ago
Just a quick note the people, culture, food, etc., are Maya, while the language is Mayan. It's an interesting somewhat obscure linguistic quirk. :)
drabinowitz3 years ago
Are you sure that the corn meal is really necessary?
Gebcas3 years ago
Not really accurate men
it was actualy the aztecs who made it first
clara273 years ago
Well, you almost got it right, except for the lack of vanilla and a few other spices.

And yes, it´s suppose to tasts bad. It wasn´t until some nuns in a convent added the cinammon and the sugar that this drink began its road to stardom.

And the frothing won´t work unless it has the most important ingredient, supplied later by the french: milk.

Today the drink does not contain chilis or cornmeal. That would be closer to champurrado--made with cornmeal, chocolate and brown sugar.

And the chili and spices mixed with chocolate and sugar make Mole, a dark sauce served over chicken and pork meat.

Nevertheless, it was a good try and an entertaining read.
scintnl3 years ago
Mayans did not have cinnamon. They did have honey from stingless bees (they bite, though). Sweetening with fruits would ferment the concoction quite rapidly in the jungle heat.
They did have vanilla and corn flour. Corn flour must have been used the same way as in atole.

Chocolatl is a Nahuatl word, not Mayan. The Mayan word was cacao.

Very interesting instructable.
Thanks for the info. Love getting the history of words. :)
Glomgrey (author)  scintnl3 years ago
Yes, the cinnamon thing was kind of a howler on my part >.< I didn't think too hard about it until after... Kind of like having a "medieval feast" with turkey heheh
Broom3 years ago
Kudos for trying! I've always wanted to. Obviously, they didn't drink a wretchedly bad brown goo, so there's got to be a trick to the proportions, prep... or maybe the Spaniards just got it wrong somehow (forgetting to mention the ton of cream and honey would do it!).
yoav1153 years ago
About the Chillies..
there is a Chilli called Mulato pepper, and it is not very hot, You can get it between mild and medium.
and about The corn meal, They had many types of corn, and one was right for this..
I love the attempt !
For what do we live otherwise ??
Glomgrey (author)  yoav1153 years ago
haha thanks, I wish I would've had a more successful attempt to put up, but I ran out of beans
kiminou3 years ago
To "grind" cinnamon, I use a microplaner. It works well and the aroma of freshly ground cinnamon is divine.
Great tip... I use a small coffee grinder for cinnamon and other spices (Alton Brown is my hero) and a microplane for nutmeg.

On another note- great instructable... I'm actually looking forward to trying this! I just need to find raw beans, or would nibs be better?
Glomgrey (author)  HowlinPreacherMan3 years ago
Depends on your definition of "better" ;) Nibs would probably be easier since you wouldn't have to deal with the roasting and peeling. I tried to find raw beans because I wanted to experience the whole process.

I was actually surprised at how easy they were to find, I don't live in a very big town but the one health food store we have (called Nutters) actually had some.
I figured health food stores would be the best bet on finding raw beans (or nibs... whatever)


Oh, and I voted for you :-)
Glomgrey (author)  HowlinPreacherMan3 years ago
Thanks :)
Glomgrey (author)  kiminou3 years ago
:) I would like to buy a microplaner one of these days... It's also a case of the above mentioned authenticity masochism (though as I mentioned, I realized when I was done that cinnamon probably isn't authentic anyhow! Not as well research as most of my projects, I'm mostly an Ancient Rome/Medieval Europe nerd).
bowmaster3 years ago
It may not taste good, but these would be an antioxidant bomb. If you drank a cup of these a day you'd live forever.
Glomgrey (author)  bowmaster3 years ago
I suppose that's the point of the raw cocoa beans too, I like bitter chocolate, but there's only so much bitter I can take :)
Clutzie3 years ago
This has been a most entertaining read. I was wondering however, if a coffee grinder wouldn't have been a better fit than the mortar and pestle gimmick. (I, for one, am not so masochist – and I'm pretty sure the Mayan would have done likewise… had they had a socket to plug their mill into).
Another thing: did you strain this concoction? This will certainly make it less harsh.
Anyway, glad to see you did not go blind or anything ;-) Nice job!

Glomgrey (author)  Clutzie3 years ago
Whether or not a coffee grinder would've worked better, I don't have one hehe

I did try straining it in one of my attempts... perhaps the cloth I was straining it through was too fine, but it seemed to take out most of the chocolate along with the lumps, and what I got looked kind of like dirty water
cbrannan3 years ago
good trial run! You might be after Champurrado - which is much tastier, and is the modern version of the ancient oirginal you attempted. Please note that using Masa(or Masa Harina) is THE corn based flour you would need to use, not yellow cornmeal/flour we in the states are used to seeing. And for those who wanna give this ancient drink a shot as our friend did, try grinding your beans and chiles in a coffee bean grinder. I keep one for my beans, and one as a whole spice grinder. (just make sure its a decent brand and not a cheap one, its does make a difference in the power). I'm a Chef, (I received my formal education at Le Cordon Bleu and was also a Head Chef of a Mexican restaurant where I made many Mole's from scratch (hence the info on the grinder trick) Good job! Great pics! Thanks!
Glomgrey (author)  cbrannan3 years ago
Ah, yes, Masa is a finer grind, isn't it? that would probably improve the texture a lot :) I'd use the excuse "but they didn't have a way to grind it that fine..." but I've learned not to underestimate the ancients... it's amazing what a little (or a lot) of hard work can do!
KatAndo3 years ago
This was a hilarious and wonderful read. I like how you think :)

Thanks for putting it up, regardless of the flavor.
orgotloth3 years ago
Traditionally it is sweetened with a tropical fruit (i suggest mango)

On a further note, the name of this drink is chocolatl. It also commonly contained chicken or beef broth.
Actually this sounds more like Atole...Chocolatl was the Aztec version, and typically would not have used any sweetening least that is my understanding.

And the only reason I know this is we are currently in a home-school co-op on pre-Colombian civilizations and just finished studying Mayan culture and we made this (we left out the chiles to make it more kid-friendly)...everyone loved it! We used a Mexican brown sugar as a sweetener...
fair enough, he does say Mayan and not Aztec, they are rather similar though.
you also need vanilla
Glomgrey (author)  orgotloth3 years ago
Vanilla might have helped the flavor a bit too :P
jsvans3 years ago
everything seems to go well up to the cornmeal. I am wondering if maybe the "corn" isn't actually supposed to be meal, but corn made into some form of sugar (if not cornsyrup)
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