• Colombian Hot Chocolate with Queso Fresco (Colombian Cheese). (Instagram)Source: Instagram
An unlikely pairing of chocolate and salty cheese makes for one of the best winter drinks and is actually a Colombian specialty.
Lucy Rennick

5 Jul 2019 - 4:07 PM  UPDATED 5 Jul 2019 - 4:07 PM

It’s World Chocolate Day on July 7, and we’re celebrating with an unlikely combo of sweet drinking chocolate and savoury, salty cheese – in the same mug.

That this drink ­– chocolate con queso, chocolate completo or chocolate santafenero – originates from Colombia shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. The country is, after all, the birthplace of cacao, and the Andean plateau region creates near-perfect cool weather conditions for drinking hot chocolate all year round. What is surprising is that Colombians generally take their hot chocolates with a good chunk of queso in the bottom of the cup.

“Colombian hot chocolate is made using the best produce of cacao, panela (unrefined cane sugar) and spices like cinnamon and cloves,” Bernice Wolford, of Surry Hills Colombian café Café Con Leche tells SBS Food. “It’s all cooked up together, and milk is added to create a rich, creamy chocolate flavour.” Traditionally, a bulbous-bottomed wooden whisk known as a molinillo is used to stir the chocolate until it’s thick and foamy.

And then comes the cheese, dolloped into the chocolate mix right before it’s served. “We use locally produced queso fresco (fresh cheese), sourced through local farmers in the Riverina district,” Wolford says. “It’s a salty soft cheese similar to mozzarella.”

In Colombia, chocolate santafereño is typically served alongside other cheesy snacks ­– pan de yucca, a large flat cassava cheese bread, and almojábanas, a smaller round cheese bread. Both are loaded with extra cheese before being served.

While some might baulk at the thought of a lump of salty cheese in a mug of hot chocolate, Colombians have been drinking chocolate santafereño for centuries. The word santafereño translates roughly to a description of something native to Santa Fe de Bogota, the Capital city of Colombia. Bogotans have been sipping cheesy hot chocolates regularly at least since the 19th century when industrialisation and the falling price of cacao made chocolate a feature of mountain diets and an essential component of late-afternoon snacking and socialising.

In Sydney, Colombian expats flock to Café Con Leche in Surry Hills for their much-needed chocolate santafereño fix. Even non-Colombians are coming around to the idea, according to Wolford. “Particularly in the colder months, more people have the Colombian Hot Chocolate feels,” she says. “The non-Colombian Sydneysiders definitely are more intrigued about what goes on in a Colombian Hot Chocolate, too. They definitely want to try it.”

If you’re intrigued and ready to combine two great loves, Café Con Leche might just have to be on your hit-list. And if your cravings won’t quit, explore SBS Food’s chocolate recipe collection - right here, right now.

Lead image credit @hoki_duo via Instagram.


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