December 13 is National Cocoa Day. Don't confuse it with Hot Chocolate Day, which is its own holiday and celebrated on January 31. I thought they were the same thing but after a bit of research realized the terms are used interchangeably, and they are actually two different beverages!
Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, (a process in which the cocoa butter is removed from it) and hot chocolate is made from melted chocolate (all the cocoa butter) and is sometimes known as sipping chocolate. Because there are no actual government regulations on the name and the ingredients, companies can use any name they like that suits their marketing needs. Most of the instant varieties of "Hot Chocolate" are actually hot cocoa. They say things like, "Hot Cocoa: Milk Chocolate Flavor", or "Hot Chocolate: Hot Cocoa Mix".
The real question is, how am I going to celebrate the day, and what's the best mix for hot cocoa? I looked to our featured database, A to Z World Food for inspiration and recipe ideas. I did a basic search using the word cocoa, and it came up with some interesting facts about cocoa, like where it's grown and how it's produced.
Did you know that the cocoa tree (Theobroma cacao) is native to the tropical zones of Central and South America and has been cultivated since at least 1,900 BCE? It was introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. Nowadays, Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world and Ghana is the second. Cadbury, the largest British chocolate manufacturer, imports 90 percent of its cocoa from Ghana.
I also found some tasty looking recipes. I will definitely be trying Kakósúpa (cocoa soup), which is Iceland’s version of hot chocolate. There's also the Ecuadorian hot chocolate recipe which includes both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate. Many versions contain a type of soft cheese, which can range from cream cheese to sweet mozzarella.
If you can't get enough of the chocolatey sweet stuff and want to learn more, here is a selection of books about the best bean around!