'Denso e cremoso' - thick and creamy
Hot Chocolate truly belongs to the Mexicans who perfected it using cocoa seeds, corn flour and chili peppers in 500 BC. A moreish mix for medicine and ritual celebrations, even before then, the ancient Olmec civilisation worshipped their 'cold chocolate'. It took millennia for the therapeutic drink to finally reach European shores, brought over by the Spanish who coveted the heavenly recipe for years until word leaked and a sweetened version became popular in London Chocolate Houses during the 1700s, with milk added - Jamaican style.
But only in 1828, during the Industrial Revolution, did the liquid become a solid thanks to a nifty invention - The Chocolate Press. Cocoa powder could be extracted from pods, mixed with liquids, set in a mould and 'Hey Presto!' - we have the chocolate bar.
Hot chocolate is now an international drink with versions world-wide, Italy's cioccolata calda is dense and decadent, pronounced 'cho-co-lah-tah cul-dah'.
Poured into a small cup, this drink is served with a spoon for a reason - it's rich and thick.
Cioccolata calda is Italy's winter warmer and part of a massive bar culture. With over 120 000 bars throughout the nation, each serving an average of 175 coffees a day, Italians never think twice about popping into a nearby bar for a quick pick-me-up usually in the form of caffeine, but also freshly squeezed orange juice or hot chocolate works. 'Un caffè per favore' is mostly drunk 'al banco' (at the counter) as an espresso in under 5 minutes, depending on the occasion and company, oh and the time of day of course, read 'Coffee Explained' here.
A casa - at home
You don't need a fancy espresso machine to make thick Italian hot chocolate. Most bars use Ciobar's handy sachets too! Cameo's Ciobar has become a house-hold name in Italy with a box kept in the cupboard for chilly, winter afternoons; families will gather around the kitchen table with their warming, chocolate treat, almost ritualistically...
While international hot chocolates are topped with cream or marshmallows, you'll find Italian hot chocolate frankly doesn't need it - the rich chocolate and balanced sweetness is pure satisfaction, just as is.
Italian Cameo is a subdivision of German August Oetker's company; he's the pharmacist who ingeniously invented a small sachet of yeast sized perfectly for 500g of flour in 1891. Cameo stocks a range of Italian products including dessert kits, frozen pizze, iced tea and and puddings. Ciobar is their version of hot chocolate which has become Italy's go-to sachet.
It's simple to make: according to the instructions, mix one sachet with 125ml of cold milk added gradually. Heat in a little pot on the stove and stir continuously until thickened.
Nota bene: 125ml of milk makes a very dense hot chocolate, you can adapt it to your preferred thickness by adding more milk.
All the flavours
Ciobar's Gusto Classico is deliciously a little dark but they do stock an even darker version - Fondente. For those with more delicate palate Ciobar Bianco is a white chocolate option while the most recent addition to the range is Ciobar Zero with no added sugar.
If you're a chocolate-lover, next time you are in Italy, remember Ciobar's cioccolata calda. Step into a bar (there's one around the corner) or grab a box from the supermarket to experience a moment of thick chocolate bliss.
Not quite ready to give up your chocolate love?
Here's a blog post on Baci Perugina - Italy's romantic Valentine's chocky.
Buon cioccolato 🤎