The answer to why we drink chocolate milk is often less related to the personal enjoyment of the beverage. Aside from the flavor that makes it popular amongst kids and adults, and the ease of purchase, chocolate milk has been a staple of school lunches and snack time drinks for as long as anyone cares to remember. Why do we mix chocolate and milk?
The answer is complicated, but it may have something to do with its presence at school lunches. According to the Children’s Hospital of Colorado, low-fat chocolate milk has been found to help young athletes recover needed nutrition after a workout. It offers proteins, vitamins and electrolytes for hydration and is readily available at school cafeterias.
Many young athletes find it easier to stomach a drink after physical activity rather than food, and most young people already enjoy chocolate milk to begin with. These benefits are what make the low-fat chocolate milk an easy option for recovery beverages in schools. It may not be the best option out there for post-workout recovery, but it’s often less expensive than the other drinks and much more readily available.
This does not mean that all chocolate milk serves this benefit or could even be considered healthy. Most chocolate kinds of milk are high in sugar and fats, which could lead to weight gain, but as a treat or for post work out recovery at school, chocolate milk is a popular, favored drink amongst young people.
Of course, this isn’t the only kind of milk and chocolate combination, and both milk chocolate and chocolate milk have interesting histories that lead to their widespread popularity today.
Related: How is Milk Chocolate Made?
When Did We Start Mixing Chocolate and Milk?
The credit for the creation of chocolate milk on the western market as we see it today is often given to a man by the name of Sir Hans Sloane in the late 1680’s early 1700’s. Though many say that we have been drinking chocolate milk for centuries before by mixing cocoa and milk, the actual records of this have been largely murky.
Sir Hans Sloane is thusly credited for introducing the beverage to the European markets. As the story goes, while abroad in Jamaica, he was offered a beverage that was cocoa mixed in water. He didn’t like the taste of this beverage, and couldn’t stomach it, so to make it more palatable, he tried mixing the cocoa with milk instead of water.
After adding sugar to this mixture, he found that it tasted really good and thought that it must be healthy. When he returned to Europe, the combination started by being sold in apothecary stores where it grew in popularity rapidly.
Giving him sole credit for the invention of chocolate milk would be a bit of a stretch, as there is the knowledge that Europeans were aware of the existence and mixing chocolate and milk as early as the 1500s. Furthermore, it’s possible that it was the Jamaicans themselves who created the mixture initially.
According to some historians, there is reason to believe that the Jamaicans that inspired the drink to begin with. Though the mixture could be more closely identified as hot chocolate, as far back as 1494, they were creating a mixture of boiled milk, cinnamon and harvest cacao.
Further, chocolate has been known to humans or a long time, as far back as 350 B.C. even, so assuming that humans had not mixed chocolate and milk before Sir Hans Sloane did would be hard to believe.
All that being said, it was Sir Hans Sloane that introduced the mixture to the European market and started the mass popularity we have seen today, even if saying he invented it would be inaccurate.
Subsequently, because chocolate milk was believed to has some health benefits and was sold at apothecaries, it wasn’t commercially available until 1820. It was the Cadbury brothers who came up with a highly profitable mixture for the mass market for chocolate milk.
The invention of milk chocolate
The basis of all chocolate products was founded by a man named Coenraad van Houten Sr, who created the cocoa press. This press is a machine that created the cocoa powder as we see it now, which would later become the basis of all of the chocolate products as we know them today.
This machine was patented in 1828, and though it is often credited to his son, it was the father who created and patented the revolutionary idea that introduced the world to cocoa powder.
Then, after the Cadbury brothers found success with drinkable chocolate, a man by the name Daniel Peter who worked next to the Nestle factory, worked in conjunction with Nestle in 1876 to create a milk chocolate recipe.
It wasn’t long before other manufactures followed this idea and through many iterations and alterations of the recipe that the chocolate became milder in flavor as it is today.
After this, in 1879, Lindt came up with a way to make the milk chocolate a lot smoother, through a process of rolling the chocolate from side to side in a stone vessel. The up to five-day process was called conching.
Milk Chocolate vs. Dark Chocolate
Milk chocolate is still considered the most popular form of chocolate, though, in recent years, dark chocolate has gotten a good name for being considered healthier. White chocolate also has milk in it, usually, but some alternatives don’t.
In recent years, dark chocolate has surged in popularity because of its reported health benefits in comparison to milk chocolate. It would be inaccurate to say that they are made equal, but anything recent research has found that milk chocolate is high on calcium, which helps out body maintain strong bones, may even be good for your heart, cognitive skills and can do everything dark chocolate can do.
Though it’s important to remember that everything should be eaten in moderation, research has shown that high chocolate consumption seemed to be connected with a 29 percent lowered risk of heart disease.
Additionally, though the high levels of antioxidants that dark chocolate is known to impact people’s health positively, the lesser amount of these antioxidants in milk chocolate isn’t the same as zero antioxidants.
Dark chocolate may have gained a reputation for being better for you than milk chocolate, that doesn’t mean that milk chocolate is automatically bad. All these studies show is that milk chocolate can do all the same things as dark chocolate, just to a lesser degree.
The mixing of milk and chocolate has had a long-disputed history coated in shades of grey. Because humans have been so aware of chocolate and milk for so long, it’s hard to believe that any single one of these named founders, from Sir Hans Sloane, Daniel Peter, Nestle, Cadbury or Lindt, actually invented the idea.
It’s more likely, instead, that the mixtures of chocolate and milk that we see today, from hot chocolate, and chocolate milk, to milk chocolate bars, are just finer tuned replicas of ideas that humans have been toying with since the first time we found the taste of chocolate.
The history of the mixture of chocolate and milk is long and complicated, but the popularity of this mixture is undisputed. The potential health benefits of chocolate milk and milk chocolate do only continue to lend to the continued demand for this mixture in modern culture.
In the end, there are good reasons that chocolate milk and milk chocolate still stand as staples of the lunchtime or snack time menu in many homes, schools and workplaces around the world.