This week I took a trip down memory lane, compliments of a weekly Twitter chat, aptly called #NostlagiaChat. NostalgiaChat was the brainchild of Beki Winchel. Recently, she turned the reins over to Steve Case. When I can fit it in on Sunday evenings, it’s a great way to engage with tweeters and have fun at the same time. It’s interesting; I usually think nostalgia as being related to those ideas from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, or earlier. Increasingly, however, I recognize that hello, time is flying, and the 80’s and 90’s are nostalgic. Well, seriously, at any age, anything can make us nostalgic. Childhood drinks was this week’s topic. Which do you think was the number one drink memory most mentioned? If you guess chocolate milk, you are right! 

Mom parceled out chocolate milk sparingly. In retrospect, it taught me the meaning of appreciation and to be cognizant of sugar consumption. Occasionally, she would buy NesQuik, a drink mix that easily dissolves in milk, but is dense with sugar. It makes a better tasting cold beverage than a hot one. At the time of its United States introduction in 1948, Nestle packaged NesQuik in cardboard and metal. Today we can find it in plastic packaging whether powder or liquid form. Along with packaging changes, Nestle cut the sugar content in half in 2017, but with that has been the addition of ingredients that have nothing to do with chocolate, and everything to do with fillers.

That chocolate milk has stood the test of time is no wonder to the person who loves chocolate. Even those who don’t like milk can often find adding chocolate to be a welcomed distraction. It’s probably the combination of sugar and chocolate that makes this drink, for most of us, irresistible. Chocolate milk makes lunchtime better, especially when eating something less to our liking. For full enjoyment, it’s best-served thoroughly chilled.

According to Britain’s National History Museum, chocolate milk was invented by Sir Hans Sloane in the 1700’s. It seems upon being presented a beverage made from cocoa and water, “He found it ‘nauseous” but by mixing it with milk made it more palatable.” Knowing that the love of chocolate dates back to the Aztecs, I found it doubtful Sir Sloane had invented chocolate milk, although, he did recognize the value of returning to Europe with cocoa as an herbal medicine. I did some further digging and found an abstract written by James Delbourgo “Sir Hans Sloane’s Milk Chocolate and the Whole History of Cacao.”

Columbus brought chocolate back to Europe in 1502, but Europeans didn’t know what to do with it. Knowing cocoa was revered so much in other cultures it was used as currency and only wealthy people were able to gain access, I find this information surprising. However, Delbourgo writes that in the 1500’s Jamaicans were brewing cocoa with water and cinnamon and introduced this drink to Cortez who didn’t like the bitterness of cocoa any more than Sir Sloane. He added additional spices and sugar. Today we refer to this version as Mexican cocoa, to which I have referred in previous writings. This bit of history attributes origination of hot cocoa, but not how we came to drinking it cold.

I depart from crediting Sloane with inventing chocolate milk. With an enlarged view of how we consume chocolate beverages, I consider hot cocoa without milk, to be what Europeans call “sipping” chocolate. It’s served in small cups as you would espresso. Add spices to it, and you have Mexican sipping chocolate. However, the addition of milk makes it what I believe most of us consider “hot cocoa” when heated and chocolate milk when served cold. With these guidelines, the answer to who invented chocolate milk remains a mystery.

Maybe I could have convinced mom to serve chocolate milk more often had we known it’s high in antioxidants and a good source for refueling post-workout.  Most of us only care to know it tastes good and brings back childhood memories.

In Farmington, Maine, at Sandy River Farms Market on the Farmington Falls Road, we can buy farm fresh chocolate milk by the pint or half a gallon. During the school year, I’ve seen university students clamoring for their chocolate milk. They come by car and bike. No doubt there are those who walk. I can see why and admit to those days when I have to snag a pint for myself and drink it before I even leave the market.