Turning up the heat: a hot chocolate taste test

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Photo by Ruby Lueras

The four hot chocolate mixes reviewed. Each mix had its own strengths, but only one came out on top.

Ruby Lueras, LZ Life Editor

Temperatures have dropped and the best way to put yourself in a better mood is to cuddle up in some blankets with a steaming cup of hot chocolate, paired with marshmallows and a heaping serving of whipped cream. However, maybe it’s time to reconsider your hot chocolate preferences and maybe even switch it up a little this new year. 

Bear Facts Student Media reviewed four different brands of hot chocolate to determine which one reigns supreme. And don’t worry — we chose to review products you can make at home, so you don’t even have to go out in the chilly weather to pick up a great mug of hot chocolate. 

To make the experiment fair, our tester mixed each of the powders with the same heated mixture of milk and water. Each chocolatey mix was judged based on three criteria: sweetness, aroma, and overall flavor.

 

Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa Mix from Good&Gather 

My adventure to find the best hot chocolate started off shaky with this drink. Typically, I’m a huge fan of everything caramel related, but this drink didn’t quite reach the mark. Its flavor was extremely underwhelming and to me, as I tasted none of the sea salt flavors promised in the name. It didn’t even taste like hot chocolate, it tasted more like a watered-down coffee. 

Its redeeming quality was its deeper almost nutty flavor that coated all my taste buds, but I wish there was more to savor. This drink also was not overwhelmingly sweet, which I actually appreciated. If a drink is too sweet, it becomes hard for me to finish, but that wasn’t the case for this drink. The aroma was also very pleasant, but it was nothing too spectacular at all.

If you want a more lowkey drink that could be consumed year-round, I recommend this mix to all casual hot chocolate drinkers out there.

 

Sweetness: ⅖

Aroma: ⅗ 

Overall Flavor: ⅗ 

 

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Mix from Ghiradelli 

This drink was love at first sip. When my lips touched the chocolate mixture I instantly felt like I was opening presents on Christmas day. It felt like I was walking in downtown Chicago with snow gently falling all around me or I was going sledding at Paulus Park. Essentially, it made me feel like Christmas day was today again. 

I’m not a huge peppermint fan, but I decided to test this flavor out. This drink completely changed my outlook on peppermint forever. Out of all the hot chocolates tested, this one also had the best aroma that filled me with warmth and happiness; the smell was very powerful and fresh. Its flavor was as exactly described in the name, peppermint, and only peppermint. This drink was sweeter than I had expected but it wasn’t overbearing at all.

If you want to immediately immerse yourself in the holiday spirit, get this drink mix. I promise you will not regret it.

 

Sweetness: ⅗

Aroma: 5/5 

Overall Flavor: 4/5

 

Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix from Ghiradelli

Going into this drink, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As an avid dark chocolate lover, I was excited to see Ghiradellis twist on a deep dark chocolate. Not surprisingly, this hot chocolate was richer than any of the others tested and definitely had the most concentrated chocolatey flavor. At times, this taste became overwhelming and I found myself having to take breaks in between sipping on this drink as it was almost too sweet. I wish that this mix would have been just a little more bitter to balance out the substantial chocolatey flavoring. The aroma was the same way- very overbearing and I wished everything in this drink was just a little more subtle.

Unlike the Sea Salt Caramel mix, this definitely tasted like hot chocolate, but also unlike the Peppermint mix, it wasn’t as compelling. All in all, this is the perfect hot chocolate mix for those with a big sweet tooth.

 

Sweetness: 5/5

Aroma: 3/5

Overall Flavor: 4/5

 

Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix from Swiss Miss

You can never go wrong with a classic. There’s a reason that Swiss Miss has been in the hot chocolate game for over 50 years now. It’s the first hot chocolate most people remember from their adolescence, whether it was served upon the kitchen table after building snowmen in the backyard or placed into frigid hands in-between snowball fight matches. Its flavor is the perfect amount of sweetness and it’s the perfect middle-ground for chocolate lovers since it’s basic milk chocolate. It’s the only cup of all the hot chocolate mixes reviewed that I actually finished to completion. It served as a nostalgic reminder of my childhood spent outside playing in the snow. With Swiss Miss, I’m convinced it’s impossible to go wrong.

I recommend this hot chocolate mixture to everyone. The only way I can see someone not enjoying this is if they simply hate hot chocolate all around. 

 

Sweetness: ⅗

Aroma: 5/5

Overall Flavor: 5/5

 

At the end of the day, the Swiss Miss came out on top. All options reviewed excelled in their own individual ways, but Swiss Miss didn’t miss the mark on any criteria. So if you plan on sitting on the couch and watching movies with family or friends anytime soon, make sure you have a couple of Swiss Miss hot chocolate packets before you hit play.