“I’m only dunking this churro because I can’t fit my whole head in it.”
Research for our first trip to Barcelona included watching every TV show on Spain we could get our eyes on, including a favorite of ours, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” from PBS (available on Netflix in the U.S.). Phil Rosenthal is so much fun!
Phil’s review of the hot chocolate in Spain (and the quote above) made us eager to explore this lovely treat, to learn more about it, and of course – to taste it!
While we didn’t make it to the specific cafe he visited, we were able to experience Spanish hot chocolate a few times, in different places, and to learn a lot more about it.
We first experienced the creamy goodness that is Spanish chocolate at Chocolateria La Nena on our food tour with Devour Barcelona. (Check out everything we tasted on that tour in this post at 52 Perfect Days.)
Spanish hot chocolate is thick and creamy, and La Nena tops it with lovely fresh cream and pairs it with melindro (cakes similar to lady fingers) and churro (sweet fried dough) for dipping. The chocolate is thick enough to coat the treats when you dip, but thin enough to drink.
Chocolate and churros is a popular breakfast here, especially for those out in the wee hours of the morning after leaving the clubs at 5 or 6. I think I prefer that to the pancakes my friends and I sought out in college!
The earliest cultivation of cacao can be traced to ancient Mesoamerica. As legend has it, when Christopher Columbus brought the substance that would come to be known as chocolate back to Queen Isabella of Spain, she didn’t like what she tasted. Of course, it did eventually catch on, and people set about working to make it taste less bitter.
Experimenting with chocolate led to the preparation of a thick, hot drink, and as the years passed, the recipe became increasingly standard – and sweet! The chocolate to sugar ratio is typically about 1:2
Chocolate was trendy to drink in large cups at Spanish bullfights, and chocolate houses (similar to coffee shops) became popular across Europe. It was enjoyed with near religious devotion in Spain, as evidenced by 18th-century writer Marco Antonio Orellana popular words:
Oh, divine chocolate!
kneeling they grind you,
hands folded they whisk you,
and eyes to heaven they drink you.
Making Your Own
To purchase Spanish hot chocolate in a store, look for chocolate a la taza – it comes in a bar, powder, and concentrate, most of which call for adding milk while cooking on the stove and stirring until thick.
For a simple made-from-scratch recipe, try this post from Oh, The Things We’ll Make.
I have also seen recipes that call for cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg, if you prefer, like this one at The Spruce.
And the verdict, now that we have indulged across the country? Spain has definitely ruined me for hot chocolate. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to stir powdered cocoa into hot water again!