Image sourced from: Janeen; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The drink you eat with a spoon

The magic of Milo

Just try to imagine school camp without that watery cup of hot Milo at the end of the day. Named after an Ancient Greek wrestler, Milo of Croton, Milo was invented during the Great Depression by the industrial chemist Thomas Mayne. Advertised as a ‘fortified tonic food’ it could ‘soothe senses, induce sleep and nourish the sick’. 

In fact, it was intended to provide children with their nutritional needs. According to the Milo website, you’ll get around 50 per cent of the recommended daily amount of calcium, and around one third of iron and vitamin C, from a (skim) milky glass containing 20 grams of Milo.

Milo is made from a thick syrup of malted wheat or barley. The water is slowly evaporated, leaving the dry chunky powder behind. Combine this with some cocoa and you get the delicious crunchy grains that we all love. Apparently, Mayne originally tried to make it dissolve completely, but gave up—thank goodness—when he heard that kids loved eating that crunchy layer from the top of the glass.

Incidentally, for actual hot chocolate, we also have to thank a chemist, a Dutch one this time. Coenraad Johannes van Houten was working on a more efficient way to remove the fats from cocoa beans—an important part of the chocolate-making process—and developed a method that efficiently removed the fats and left behind a cake of cocoa powder. To make the powder mix with liquid better, he added some alkaline salts, a process that is known as ‘Dutching’.

This article has been reviewed by the following expert: Professor Mike Gidley Director, Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Queensland and Chair of the National Committee for Nutrition, Australian Academy of Science