Monday, October 27, 2008

VeganMoFo: Hot Cocoa Reviews!

We've got less than a week left of VeganMoFo, and I'm gonna try to go out on a bang with some good posts for this week...

Today I present:
A review of Vegan Hot Cocoa Mixes
(with a special side show of my cute mugs)

Cocoa is a wonderful elixir, but it's also a complicated product. A lot of human and environmental suffering can go into a chocolate bar or a glass of hot cocoa, so it's important to be an informed consumer. First off, many (most?) hot cocoa mixes have milk solids in them, so those ones are not vegan. Yes, I agree - that's very irritating. But vegans aren't just concerned about our four-legged friends. In my opinion, a truly VEGAN chocolate experience must be organic, dairy-free, and fair-trade. This way you can cover all your bases of potential exploitation, and truly enjoy your warm toasty beverage with a clear conscience and good digestion.

I am a big time Hot Cocoa fan... especially since I don't really drink coffee or tea much. I noticed that I have 7 different hot cocoa brands in my cupboard, so I did a scientific taste test for all y'all's behalf (shout out to Amanda!). For this experiment I used half hemp milk and half oat milk, although I also love making hot cocoa with soy milk, almond milk, or (especially!) hazelnut milk. Yum.

Cocoa: Omanhene Hot Cocoa Mix.
Mug: Kitty Mug made for me by my Mom when I was a little girl.
Review: This cocoa comes from Ghana. It has a mild flavor, that is amplified if you use more cocoa. Still though, the complexity of the cocoa is not really there. It's a thin cocoa flavor with a slightly odd aftertaste. There are a few cocoa chunks left in the bottom of the mug.

Cocoa: Dagoba Xocolatl
Mug: Doggies mug given to me by a yoga student
Review: This hot cocoa really packs a spicy heat punch. The chocolate flavor is pretty much secondary to the heat factor. I generally use this in addition to another cocoa mix. I do like the way that the spicy heat warms me from the inside along with the temperature heat of the hot cocoa. On its own though, the cocoa flavor was not pronounced enough to be satisfying. This could be, in part, due to the large amount of cocoa in the bottom of the mug when I was done. I guess it requires a lot of stirring, maybe even sifting?

Cocoa: Sweet Earth Chai Cocoa
Mug: One of my two Tintin Mugs. I love Tintin!
Review: My most recent purchase, I had never heard of a Chai Cocoa mix before. I love the combo of chocolate and chai flavors. Made with actual cocoa and chai spices, both flavors are clear and strong - don't buy this if you don't like cardamom - but the chai is perhaps slightly dominant over the cocoa. This is another cocoa that requires thourough stirring, as the cocoa solids do tend to collect at the bottom of the mug. I also found that I needed another scoop of cocoa compared to some of the others to get the proper flavor punch.

Cocoa: Lake Champlain Organic Fair Trade Hot Cocoa
Mug: My chicken mug from the thrift store
Review: This is one of my standards, a nice clear hot cocoa flavor. It's not too sweet, and has a great dissolvability factor, so that you don't discover all your cocoa flavor hiding at the bottom of the mug when you're done. The cocoa flavor here isn't terribly complex or spicy, but it is satisfying and chocolately.

Cocoa: Trader Joe's Natural Mint Cocoa
Mug: My dancing bugs mug
Review: I got this a while back as a gift. I don't use it often, but I busted it out for this testing experiment. It's not too bad, but it's noticably less chocolatey and less complex than the others. It is indeed minty, so for all you mint-choco folks, that's a nice element. However the sweet sugar presence is a bit too strong for my tastes, supressing the cocoa flavor a bit. It's a friendly and accessible mix though, and probably good for kiddos who might not appreciate the dollar per cup ratio of some of these other selections.

Cocoa: Dagoba Hot Chocolate Mix
Mug: My other Tintin mug, which is a little better because it has Snowy on it
Review: This Dagoba cocoa has a nice, full cocoa flavor. It's sweet, but not overwhelmingly so, and the sugar-cocoa balance seems perfect. Like the other Dagoba cocoa reviewed above, I do get irritated at how much cocoa is in the bottom of the mug when I'm done. It's like I spend the whole time wishing for a richer flavor and then the last couple sips are overwhelmingly rich. I'm not sure why this happens, or if constant stirring would solve it. Believe me, I try!

Cocoa: Whole Foods Allegro Organic Peruvian 68
Mug: My little Japanese Dog mug
Review: I was surprised how much I liked this one. When I first bought it, while travelling, I was desperate for hot cocoa. But I decided I didn't much care for it. This time around, it stood out as my favorite. The cocoa flavor was the most complex and intriguing of all my selections. The appearance was lovely, with little flecks of cocoa floating around in the mug. The dissolvability was good, and the taste was both subtle and appealing. Chocolatey and sweet, and I could really notice the natural spicy tones of the cocoa. Yum.

Hot Beverage: Inka Grain Beverage
Mug: My hand-painted mug with pictures of my childhood dog, JD
Review: Finally, this isn't a cocoa beverage, but it does bear mentioning. Inka is a grain-based "coffee substitute" that I really like. Recently I've started making "mochas" of sorts - mixing cocoa and inka into my milk. The inka has a strong flavor (which is yummy, but not really anything like coffee in case you're wondering), and so not more than a small spoonful is needed. Along with some cocoa mix, it's extra yummy and satisfying.

Hope you enjoyed the reviews!


  1. FABULOUS reviews!! And I love all of your mugs :0)

  2. Mmmm, I love hot cocoa! I really enjoyed the TJ's chocolate mint one last winter and I will look for the WF one this year. Thanks for the reviews!

  3. The only one of these I have tried is the xocolatl. The instructions on the tin are very strange, but I followed them, and I don't remember having a lot of undisolved cocoa at the bottom.

    Great reviews!

  4. Anonymous8:31 PM

    I love your kitty mug! Last time we made hot chocolate we bought the Nestle Abuelita. I'm looking forward to trying the Allegro brand!

  5. Woohoo, I have been craving hot cocoa all week, now I will have to indgulge!

  6. i haven't had hot cocoa since be'n vegan - i think it's about time i have some! thanks for taking the time to create this awesome review! your mugs really are the best! i love the rooster one and the first kitty one the mostest! yay!

  7. Anonymous8:46 AM

    This may be my second favorite post ever on your blog (nothing will ever beat the "everyone likes corn" post). I want your mug collection! I had been wondering about that Allegro cocoa - will give it a try & also love the idea of Inka/hot cocoa mix. My absolute favorite cocoas so far are the Green & Black's bittersweet dark hot chocolate and the G&B Maya Gold hot chocolate with orange/spices.

    Jen E.

  8. Love your mug collection. Especially the kitty mug :)

    I used to work at lake champlain chocolates in college. I still buy their chocolate from time to time.

    did you do this testing in the same day?

  9. This is by far the most comprehensive post I've ever seen on hot cocoa!! I haven't had it in a long time and you've inspired me to go buy some. Now I just have to pick one...

    you said y'all :-)

  10. Ooh yes! I've been wanting a good hot cocoa mix. It sounds like I need to get to Whole Foods!

  11. Mmmm, now that it's getting cooler outside, I've been craving a good mug of hot cocoa! Thanks for the reviews!

  12. I'm not sure how I ever missed this post...
    Great reviews! I'm a big hot chocolate fan, but I usually just end up mixing some Equal Exchange baking cocoa with a bit of maple syrup into some almond milk. It's a bittersweet chocolate drink that I love right before bed. I'm curious to try the new Equal Exchange drinking chocolate. I imagine it's richer than their usual cocoa mix- and it's vegan!

  13. Hi! I don't know how I missed this! I work for Lake Champlain Chocolates and usually I run across posts that mention us and somehow, I only just found yours. Well, it may be a little delayed but thank you for the really nice inclusion.

    I'm glad you like the Organic Hot Chocolate. We've had a really good response to it. In fact, Martha Stewart's Body + Soul is supposed to be picking it up in their "Winter" issue in January.
    It's just a nice traditional option for those looking for Organic and/or vegan.

    If you should find yourself in the Pine Street area of Burlington, VT, please stop in and say hi. I'm here all the time and would love to give you a tour.

    Again, thanks for the great mention. Happy Holidays!


  14. Anonymous11:14 AM

    I have this little frother that I use for making lattes but after reading your post I'm now wondering if it might help to mix up the hot cocoa mixes better. It's only $2 - can't beat that! Although, if you do get one, be forewarned that the battery size is weird. My husband did manage to fit a standard AA or AAA (can't remember which now) battery in there (but it took a lot of wrangling) and it works just fine.

  15. Anonymous11:29 AM

    Hi Amey,
    I finally got around to trying the Xocolatl that you talk about here. It is actually turning out to be one of my favorites. But it has taken some experimentation to get it right. First of all the package suggests 4 Tbsp. of mix, but I use 4 tsp. Not sure whether this was a labeling mistake, but in any case, the amt. suggested left tons of cocoa in the bottom.

    Second, the milk temperature really is key. You have to whisk in the powder just as steam is starting to come up but before (obviously) it gets scalding hot. If I did it too soon, again there was clumpy cocoa or cocoa left in the bottom.

    So less cocoa & the right temp makes a great cup. I love the spiciness; it was really nice this winter on cold days.

    Also the chocolate bar version of this is quite good as well.

    --jen e.

  16. Anonymous12:52 PM

    I got all excited about your review and I purchased Dagoba organic chocolate from the store - got home, looked at the ingredients and it says *milk(less than 0.1%) :( not vegan.....
    It is in a dark brown can not a light one like in your photo. Maybe they are different, but you may want to double check your label on the Dagoba...


I love comments, they really make my day! Thanks for reading my blog!