Hot chocolate is one of life’s real pleasures. But did you know there’s more to a good mug of the stuff than bunging in a couple of spoons of drinking chocolate powder? Find out what we thought of some of the drinks out there in this hot chocolate review.
All this blustery and quite frankly miserable weather we’ve been experiencing down here in Cornwall over the last few days means that we are in need of warming comfort food. What could be more comforting than wrapping your hands around a mug of steaming hot chocolate in cheery defiance of the weather gods?
If you’re going to have a “proper” hot chocolate, you may as well go the whole hog and have one made with pieces of real chocolate. It wasn’t until I received several brands of drinking chocolate to review, however, that I realised that different hot chocolates lend themselves to different ways of preparation and serving.
Jaz & Jul’s
It’s been a while since I tried some hot chocolate and these three boxes of the new Origin range chocolate from Jaz & Jul’s were worth the wait. They were all delicious of course, but quite varied in flavour and depth and I found it hard to choose a favourite.
The colourful cardboard boxes contain 60g of dark chocolate, enough for two luxurious cups. The chocolate is finely ground, so it melts quickly and easily when stirred into hot milk. Like all of their chocolate, it is ethically sourced and organic too.
cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla beans
I don’t think I’ve ever had chocolate from Brazil before. The beans used are Trinitario and are grown in the state of Para, deep within the Amazon rainforest. I found this to be rich and flavoursome and somehow more chocolatey than the other two.
cocoa liquor, cocoa, sugar
I have a bit of a weakness for Madagascan chocolate which has a particularly distinctive taste. Made from Malagasy cocoa grown in the Sambirano Valley, this did not disappoint and had the slightly sharp buttermilk notes I was hoping for.
cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla beans
The rare white criollo beans used in this chocolate are from the Alto Piura region of north-west Peru and are highly prized. It smelt quite earthy and indeed it tasted robust with notes of tobacco and coffee.
Goat’s Milk Hot Chocolate
The goats at St Helen’s Farm in East Yorkshire have been producing fresh milk for the last 27 years. Many people who find themselves unable to drink cow’s milk, are able to tolerate the goat version.
Do watch out for future goaty posts where I will be trying out other products from the farm. I’m not normally a fan of skimmed milk, or even semi-skimmed milk, but I did like both of these in goat form and they do work remarkably well for chocolates. There is a slight goaty tang, but it’s not too strong and adds another dimension to the drink which I could become quite addicted to.
Chocolate Week has brought me many delights and one of these was a chocolate bar from Barry Callebaut with my name iced on the top. This put a big smile on my face. It wasn’t long, however, before the bar disappeared. Half of it went into a pan of skimmed goat’s milk to make the hot chocolate you can see above and the other half I shared with CT a little later.
Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate
Back in May, I reviewed Hans Sloane Natural Honey and Rich Dark drinking chocolates and was favourably impressed. I hoped I’d then get to try their award winning Madagascar and Ecuador single origin varieties. So I was delighted when a fragrant parcel arrived in the post.
CT and I girded our loins and got down to the difficult business of doing a compare and contrast exercise. It was difficult to see much difference in the appearance of these two chocolates but when it came to smell and taste the resemblance disappeared.
Thick and rich as these drinking chocolates are, I decided to taste test them with water once again. I find this can be a good way to go when conducting a hot chocolate review. The shiny chocolate beads melt beautifully this way and the flavours are’nt masked by dairy.
I found, with absolutely no surprise whatsoever, that we liked both of them. We did, however, have a preference and we both had the same one.
Hans Sloane Hot Chocolate Review
Madagascar 67% – a rich and fruity aroma wafts up from the packet on opening. It has a strong fruity taste with aromatic cardamom notes. It’s also a little bitter and leaves a slightly drying sensation behind in the mouth.
Ecuador 70% – the fragrance is more of tobacco in this case. It has woody notes with liquorice tones that make it quite robust. It is less sweet, richer and drier than the Madagascar which makes it our favourite.
Mortimer Chocolate Powder
Some of you may be aware that I’m a big fan of Mortimer’s chocolate powders. I find them absolutely fabulous for chocolate bakes because you don’t need to melt anything. They have thoughtfully ground down the chocolate to a powder, so we don’t have to do anything. It can go straight into the mix. That mans less fuss and less washing up.
The powders also make excellent hot chocolates. Not only do they taste good, but the chocolate melts quickly and easily. The dark chocolates are both 70%, but come from two different continents: one from Ecuador and one from West Africa. I’ve reviewed these in this spicy dark chocolate cake post, so I won’t repeat my findings here. The fruity West African, however, worked particularly well in these rich chocolate scones.
The white couverture powder is equally impressive and contains 40% cocoa solids, which is much higher than many brands. Flavoured with natural vanilla, it is free from both gluten and soya. I’ve used it in various recipes, but you can find specific mention in my red gooseberry cakes and burnt butter cupcakes. I have to confess that I’ve not tried this as a hot chocolate, but for those with a sweet tooth, I expect it would make a very nice drink indeed.
Well summer it may be, but it doesn’t really feel like it. It’s grey and a cold wind has been blowing for days. Now rain I would welcome. Our garden and plot are parched and nothing is growing, but all we’ve been blessed with in this current bout of wintery weather is the odd splash here and there that gets blown away by the wind almost as soon as it’s landed.
Anyway, enough of that. The point I’m trying to get to is that despite it being summer, it feels very much like the weather for hot chocolate. This is probably just as well, as I was recently the recipient of two tins of organic drinking chocolate from the good folk at Steenbergs.
I was particularly delighted by this as, not only do I like hot chocolate, but Steenbergs is a small family run company driven by ethics which started by selling organic and fairly traded herbs and spices. In addition to this, they have good eco credentials which always meets with my approval. Steenbergs have steadily been increasing their range to include teas, baking ingredients and other ethical products.
Organic Drinking Chocolate
The tins arrived plain and unadorned as these are new products and Steenbergs are still waiting for the labels to be produced. I was quite happy with this as the tins are attractive as they are and I can think of many uses to which I can put them. How about keeping drinking chocolate or cocoa in for instance?
I was hoping to receive some cocoa as I actually prefer this to drinking chocolate, which I generally find too sweet. But it was not to be on this occasion. What I did receive was a tin of plain drinking chocolate and a tin of Christmas drinking chocolate. Sadly I’m unable to give the ingredients in this hot chocolate review due to the aforementioned lack of labels.
All I needed to do was heat some milk in a pan and whisk in a couple of heaped teaspoons of the drinking chocolate mix. The flavour of both were good, but as a drink, they were sweeter than I was hoping.
I’m looking forward to using them both in baking though and I have some recipes which call specifically for drinking chocolate rather than cocoa. The Christmas drinking chocolate had some intriguing flavours that I found quite hard to identify but I thought perhaps nutmeg stood out. There is also a chilli drinking chocolate, which being a chilli fiend, I would like to have tried too.
They will be retailing from between £4.50 and £5.50.
Brown Bear Hot Chocolate Review
These dark chocolate flakes from Brown Bear were quite different to the Hans Sloane chocolate beads. The cocoa content was slightly higher, being 55% and on opening a rich chocolate aroma rose up to fill my senses in a most delightful way.
The directions here were for three heaped teaspoons per 200ml of milk, which was considerably less than the aforementioned brand and only weighed 25g. This of course means the chocolate goes a lot further, but won’t be as rich. This being the case, I thought it lent itself to being made the traditional way, with milk; indeed, this was the only direction given. It made for a very nice cup of milky hot chocolate.
The tub stated that you could have a magical hot chocolate experience by topping with whipped cream, marshmallows and a generous sprinkling of chocolate flakes. I tried that out too. It would have been churlish not to.
I used some of the Brown Bear flakes to sprinkle over the top which saved a bit of time and a lot of mess not having to flake the chocolate myself. Unsurprisingly, this worked very well. It was completely over the top, but so worth it.
For comparison, we also tried making this with hot water. Although pleasant, we found it a bit thin. To be fair, the quantities given in the directions varied between the two brands. This one used a lot less chocolate so the comparison was not exactly fair.
Recently launched, just in time for Easter, this 350g tub is available at £6.99 from the Brown Bear online shop.
Zuma Hot Chocolate Review
As well as the fabulous Byron Bay cookies I’ve reviewed in the past, Beyond the Bean also supply hot chocolate. Not only did I get a big bag of Zuma hot chocolate, but some more of the fabulous biscuits and two mugs. In addition, when I unwrapped the parcel, I found a couple of bottles of Sweetbird syrups, toffee and hazelnut, as well as a couple of pumps to go with them. How cool is that?
One of the first things I do when I see a new product is to check the list of ingredients. I can’t help myself. Annoyingly, I noted a few unnecessary ingredients in the Zuma hot chocolate. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a purist and prefer my food to be as natural and as unprocessed as possible, but I was a little taken aback to find dextrose, flavouring and salt in addition to sugar and cocoa.
Flavouring is such a ubiquitous and meaningless term. For it tells you precisely nothing, other than that something unspecified has been added. The cocoa powder is fat reduced, so maybe that’s why extra flavouring is needed. I’d naively assumed hot chocolate would contain, cocoa powder, sugar and nothing else.
When we tried a cup, I have to say neither of us were that impressed by the taste either. It was way too sweet and also had a bit of a weird flavour.
The mugs, however are lovely. With my penchant for warm colours, I was delighted by the bright orange background and the yellow writing. Hot chocolate associated words adorned the mugs, conjuring up images of warmth and cosiness. These are perfect for hot chocolate and I’ve been using them regularly ever since.
Strangely, I was less worried about the syrups. This is mostly because I sort of expected there to be a long list of ingredients I’d be less than happy with. As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised to find there are no artificial preservatives in these Sweetbird syrups. And they’re also the only ones that have Vegetarian Society approval.
In fact there was nothing there I had an issue with except the term “aromas”. What does that mean? It does say on the label that there are no artificial flavours, so maybe I’m being unduly suspicious.
I’ve seen these syrups, or something similar, in cafes and they appear to be quite popular. But I’d never tried them until now. I had some Hazelnut in a hot chocolate. All I can say is, it didn’t do it for me. I reckon they’d be much more successful in cake toppings and fillings and that’s what I shall use them for. In fact, I’ve already used the toffee syrup to good effect in a toffee yogurt cake.
Nova Multi-Quell Whisk
As I had been sent a manual hand held whisk to review from G3 Direct, I thought it would be good to try it out with my hot chocolate drinks. The Nova whisk is a little unusual in that you push down on the handle repeatedly to turn the head. This requires less effort than a balloon whisk and is meant to be helpful for those with wrist mobility problems or carpal tunnel syndrome.
The handle comes in various shades, but sadly not red. I opted for a vibrant green instead, although I was also quite tempted by the orange.
With the whisk to try out, I whisked the hot chocolates rather than stirring them. And I also used it to whip up the cream. I have to say, since I first used it, I’ve abandoned all other whisks when it comes to whipping up double cream. It’s a dream to use requiring little effort and making less mess than a balloon or electric whisk.
Funnily enough, I saw a demo at the Big Cake Show where the whisk was used to froth semi-skimmed milk – in a matter of seconds it seemed. I don’t drink semi-skimmed, so tried this on some whole milk. It did froth up, but collapsed almost immediately, so my dreams of adding an attractive frothy top to my drinks didn’t last very long.
Discover More Chocolate Week Deliciousness
For more hot chocolate reviews and recipes, take a look at my hot chocolate tag.
Stay in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you try any of these hot chocolate products, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Do share photos on your preferred social media site and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
Thanks go to Hans Sloane, Jaz & Jul’s, Mortimer Chocolate Company, G3 Direct, Steenbergs, St Helen’s Farm, Brown Bear, Beyond The Bean and Barry Callebaut for the various samples. I was not required to write positive reviews and as always, all opinions are my own. Thank you also for your support of the brands and organisations that help to keep Tin and Thyme blithe and blogging.