in 2014, small-batch chocolate milk created by a little creamery in New Zealand started selling on the black market at a 138 percent markup, such was its popularity.
As reported on Stuff.co’s NZFarmer website, people not only lined up in large numbers to snag a few bottles of Lewis Road Creamery’s chocolate milk, but some also took this liquid gold and turned a tidy profit on the secondary market. Reports suggested that 75-milliliter bottles of the good stuff were seen on Trade Me, a New Zealand-based peer-to-peer auction site, for as much as 15 New Zealand dollars ($11.74) a bottle, nearly double the retail price of NZ$6.29.
Hoarding of the chocolate milk was such that supermarkets had to institute per-person buying limits and install security guards to maintain order. And what exactly was causing this chocolate-milk mania? Why were people queuing up for hours and raiding markets—one in particular sold 500 bottles in 90 minutes—for this take on a childhood favorite? Lewis Road is a small-batch creamery beloved by Kiwis, but they were totally unprepared for the popular support for the product, which combines organic milk with Whittakers’ chocolate, another New Zealand favorite.
Chocolate milk is objectively delicious, whether cold, boxed, hot or malted. But where did it come from? Who first thought to add chocolate and milk together? According to the Natural History Museum in Britain, that credit goes to Sir Hans Sloane, an Irish botanist. Sloane spent some time in Jamaica in the early 1700s, where the local people gave him cocoa to drink. “He found it 'nauseous' but by mixing it with milk made it more palatable," the museum says. When he returned to England, Sloane brought the milk and cocoa mixture with him, and for many years it was sold as medicine.
But, as with most things, the European who gets credit for inventing something probably did not actually invent it. According to Jame Delbougo, a historian, the Jamaicans were brewing “a hot beverage brewed from shavings of freshly harvested cacao, boiled with milk and cinnamon” as far back as 1494. And chocolate has been known to humans as far back as 350 B.C. It's hard to believe that no one before Sloane thought to put milk in it.
Even Europeans had known about chocolate since 1502, when Columbus brought it back from his conquests in the Americas—although it wasn’t until Cortez pillaged the Aztecs in 1516 that Europeans actually figured out what to do with cacao. In fact, Cortez had a similar reaction to Sloan when served the bitter drink—he added spices and sugar to cut the bite. (If you want to make that kind of hot chocolate, try this Mesoamerican recipe.)