Cacao is native to South America and has been grown for three thousand years in Central America and Mexico. The ancient people of Mesoamerica including the Mayas drank chocolate beverages. The Aztecs called the drink xocolātl , a Nahuatl word meaning “bitter water.”
Mexican chocolate today is flavored with cinnamon, almonds and vanilla. It is sweet and is much grainier than other chocolates. It is commonly used not only in hot chocolate drinks, but also in making traditional sauces such as mole poblano, mole negro and mole rojo.
Ibarra is a Mexican brand of chocolate para mesa, which in English can be translated as “table chocolate.” Although it can be eaten the way Americans snack on chocolate bars, Ibarra tablets are primarily used to make traditional Mexican hot cocoa. Heat some milk close to boiling point and then blend with the chocolate tablillas in a blender.
The chocolate of Grupo Ibarra is in the form of tablets packaged in a red-and-yellow hexagon-shaped cardboard box. The letters of the name “IBARRA” are also molded into the chocolate. Ingredients: sugar, cacao nibs, lecithin and cinnamon flavoring.
Another popular Mexican brand of chocolate tablets is Abuelita from the Nestlé® company. It too is used to make Mexican-style hot chocolate.
When you want to make mole but can’t find a Latino supermarket to buy Mexican chocolate from, you can try substituting semisweet chocolate and add a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and a drop of almond extract.