Mint chocolate is now a classic flavour pairing we all know and love. But what are its origins?
A flavour combination like no other: the unmistakable hit of rich, smooth chocolate with the refreshing feeling of cool mint. But why is mint chocolate so wildly popular? Read on as we delve into the history of mint chocolate…
How long have people been combining mint and chocolate?
Mint chocolate as a flavour combination dates back to the 16th century. Historians believe Europeans were the first people to put mint and chocolate together after travelling to South America. Back then, chocolate was widely used as part of a hot drink. The beverage would often feature ingredients such as cinnamon, mint and other herbs and spices to sweeten the bitter taste.
Dark chocolate dates way back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. They developed the harvesting process and sought out the ingredient for its immune-strengthening properties. The chocolate was dark in colour, and very bitter in taste. When Europeans took cacao beans back to their shores, they used readily-available mint to improve the chocolate drink’s flavour.
This continued until Victorian times. During this time, confectioners jumped on the popular flavour combination and began to produce minty chocolate treats. However, it wasn’t until 1940 that an American brand created round peppermint creams enrobed in dark chocolate. Not long after, mint chocolate thins became a go-to treat for girl scouts in the United States, driving the confection’s popularity.
Then, in 1973, Marilyn Ricketts, a culinary student, took the flavour combination to new levels. She developed ‘mint chocolate chip ice cream’. Now, we can’t imagine ice cream parlours without this irresistible variety! Mint choc chip ice cream grew so fast in popularity that it soon became a royal favourite. Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips even served it at their wedding that same year.
Which kind of mint works best?
Mint’s cool yet sharp tang awakes all other senses. When paired with smooth, decadent chocolate, it provides a luxurious depth of flavour that simply cannot be replicated. Mint chocolate is timeless. But did you know that you can combine several varieties of mint with chocolate?
Peppermint is the type we most commonly associate with mint chocolate, especially when it comes to hot chocolate. But spearmint, wintergreen and crème de menthe can all create a vibrant blend. The versatility in the different mint varieties allows chocolatiers to create mint chocolate with varying intensity, sweetness, bitterness and balance. This means there’s something for everyone!
Peppermint: vibrant and refreshing
Peppermint has a strong and sometimes spicy flavour – hence the ‘pepper’ part of the name. Perhaps the most potent of all mint, peppermint is actually a natural hybrid of both spearmint and watermint. Peppermint’s fierceness compliments dark chocolate. Together, they produce a robust, well-rounded hit of deep flavour.
Having said that, our Peppermint White hot chocolate showcases how this mint variety can also be a welcome addition to creamy white chocolate. The delicate vanilla notes of our 36% white chocolate flakes temper the vibrant warmth that peppermint brings.
Spearmint: mild and subtly-sweet
Spearmint holds a much more subtle flavour. It can be sweeter and milder in minty flavour than its fiery cousin peppermint. Spearmint gets its mellow flavour from carvone. This ingredient is more subtle than menthol, and it doesn’t create such a strong cooling sensation. Spearmint’s subtle flavour pairs perfectly with milk and white chocolate. It’s also a great addition to chocolate ice cream.
Wintergreen: a mint replica
Wintergreen is a distinct flavour that comes from the Gaultheria-genus plant. Although not from the mint family, wintergreen can replicate a minty flavour. You may find it in confectionery, toothpaste and even in perfume.
Wintergreen is similar to peppermint in its powerful overtones and cooling nature. It’s ideal for frozen mint chocolate desserts, ice cream and dark chocolate recipes.
Explore our refreshing mint chocolate range
At Hotel Chocolat, we delight in the quintessentially British combination of refreshing mint with luxurious chocolate. From Super Thin Mint Truffles — with their crisp 70% dark chocolate shells and a Tasmanian peppermint centre — to our indulgent and refreshing Mojito Chocolates, mint chocolate is a flavour combination that we simply can’t get enough of!
And it doesn’t stop there. As an ode to the original history of mint chocolate, our Dark with Mint Hot Chocolate blends tongue-tingling Tasmanian peppermint with rich 70% chocolate. Forget after-dinner-mints, this sparkling hot chocolate makes for an invigorating digestif. Although, it also makes a fantastic afternoon pick-me-up. Prepare with our at-home hot chocolate system, the Velvetiser for a smooth, barista-grade beverage. It provides the ultimate in cosy satisfaction.
For a truly indulgent treat to delight dinner party guests with, why not try our Mint Chocolate Velvetised Cream? Loved ones are sure to appreciate the soothing yet reviving nature of this tipple. Created by Chef David Demaison of our Cacao Innovation Team, this drink combines deep and mellow cacao notes with uplifting peppermint undertones. The result? A gloriously moreish treat that’s perfect for a post-dinner celebration.
Taking inspiration from our Mint Royale selector and Peppermint Super Thin Truffles, David experimented with numerous fresh and fragrant mint oils. Finally, he unearthed the perfect balance of cooling peppermint and warming vodka, real cream and 70% dark chocolate. Et voila!
As always, our recipes don’t call for anything artificial. Instead, we rely on nature to provide the heroic ingredients for the most satisfying flavours. We believe that the natural aroma of peppermint oil lends itself perfectly to the creamy, bold cacao notes in this minty velvet tipple. Why not discover it for yourself?
Explore our full mint chocolate range and find your new favourite nibble.