Don Gustavo vs. Abuelita

chocolatecocoaAbuelita is a term of endearment for grandmother, but it is also a brand of Mexican hot chocolate, which can sometimes be found above the border as well. Most often, when one finds Mexican-style hot chocolate NoB, it is the Ibarra brand manufactured in Guadalajara, and most often sold as tablets marked into wedges that can be cut into eight portions.  In the style of Mexican hot chocolates, it contains cinnamon and vanilla.

[The difference between “hot cocoa” and “hot chocolate” is that cocoa has had almost all cocoa butter removed.]

Abuelita is a Nestle brand, and while I don’t boycott Nestle (because of its pushing of infant formula in the third world) it isn’t ever a preferred brand and I avoid its purchase whenever possible.

When I lived NoB, Mexican-style hot chocolate seemed too sweet for my taste. As often as I tried to make hot chocolate using Mexican products, it just didn’t taste “right.” I even went so far as to buy and use a molinillo (a frothing device also used for atole, a corn-based hot drink). I knew the molinillo would do nothing to change the drink’s flavor, but it impressed mis amigos.

NoB I used the darkest unsweetened cocoa powder I could find and added my own sugar, trying to keep the flavor as bittersweet as I could. In that I was somewhat close to the Mayans to whom sugar was unknown. Their drink (served cold) was likely made with a paste of ground cocoa seeds and mixed with water, cornmeal, chilis, and other ingredients such as vanilla. So in the film Chocolat the chocolat that Juliette Binoche’s character Vianne creates in her shop (Chocolaterie Maya) may have been exotic to her little French village because of the chocolate’s secret ingredient (chili), but it would also have been exotic to the Mayans because its presentation and consistency and sweetness.

The tienda closest to my apartment has very limited shelf space and my only choice – desperate for a chocolate fix at the time – was Abuelita.  I was very surprised – perhaps it was magical – when the very sweet Abuelita tasted, if not great, at least pleasing and in some way took me back to hot chocolates of my childhood that my mother made using – Nestle’s mix.

Nearing the end of my supply of Abuelita, I bought some Hershey’s cocoa powder – at a somewhat exorbitant price – in a grocery in El Centro. More recently I was in a big-box store that had several brands of hot chocolate powder made here in Mexico and I bought the Don Gustavo brand, which was slightly less expensive and which seems less sugary than Abuelita. So now I’ve found a product that meets my needs while making me feel better ethically.

Perhaps terroir, the concept which the French hold that each wine grape has its rightful place in soil suitable to its growth, may be applicable to hot chocolate as well.

Now I need to get my molinillo from storage during my next trip NoB.


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