Chocolate was first brought to Europe in drink form, and immediately took a place at the high table of the aristocracy.
Chocolate-makers were among the few servants permitted entry to lords and ladies' bedrooms, and chocolatiers became some of the wealthiest people around.
Italian-born University of Waikato creative writing student Maria-Teresa Corino is now writing a novel about this most innocent and delicious of drinks, and she joins us to talk about it.
And here's Maria-Teresa's secret Italian hot chocolate recipe if you're game ...
HOT COCOA ITALIAN STYLE
Heat milk in a saucepan.
Mix together the best pure cocoa you can find (not drinking chocolate mix), 1/4 to ½ teaspoon corn flour or potato starch, a little sugar (you can add more later if needed).
Add a little warm milk to the cocoa mix, stir well to dissolve: this helps to avoid lumps.
Pour the dissolved cocoa into the rest of the milk, brown into white.
Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until it begins to thicken, and is very hot but not boiling.
If, like me, you think too much chocolate doesn’t exist, add a few squares of very dark (75-90%) chocolate, stir to melt.
Pour into a very small cup, drink very hot and liquid, or allow to cool and you should be able to eat it with a spoon.