Hot chocolate season

What is the difference between hot chocolate, hot cocoa, drinking chocolate and cacao tea? Plus, two hot chocolate recipes.

Happy New Year! (I still have my Christmas tree up, so we can still exchange the greeting, right? 😅)  It was an especially cold January, and I don't have a lot of hope for February so we should be drinking hot chocolate all the time.

There's a lot of names for hot chocolate, and there are some distinctions. 

Hot chocolate: Often has melted chocolate in it.

Hot cocoa: Usually powdery (before milk or water is added) and very sweet.

Drinking chocolate: How many bean to bar companies distinguish their hot chocolatey beverages from others. I think of it as fancy branded hot chocolate, but it is often thicker and less sweet than hot chocolate or hot cocoa.

Cacao tea: Brewed from the husks and/or nibs of cacao. 

There are lots of great mixes and recipes out there (I have two fun ones later on in this issue). Caputo’s had a fun short video (it was a TikTok, but I saw it as an Instagram Reel) about why drinking chocolate is great and they’re right — in good drinking chocolate, you still get those delicious tasting notes that you find in bean to bar chocolate.

If you’re in the market for a drinking chocolate mix, here are some of my favorites:

  • Chocolate Conspiracy Chocolate Drink Mix: This may be my favorite drinking chocolate. Sometimes Chocolate Conspiracy is at the local farmers market and they sell this from a big drink machine, which is perfect when you’re milling about looking at vegetables. They use coconut milk as the liquid, and it is amazing. It really lends a creaminess. They use Peruvian cacao beans in addition to coconut palm sugar and mesquite powder as sweeteners.

  • Dick Taylor: Available flavors are peppermint (a seasonal release made with Madagascar cacao) or Belize. They have individual packets, which are pretty dang convenient.

  • Solstice Dark Drinking Chocolate Ghana: The best drinking chocolate I’ve ever had was from a cafe called Moka, where they made it from melted Solstice bars. You would pick your favorite origin, then they would froth it with small amounts of milk. It was like drinking straight chocolate. This is the second best thing! The Ghana cacao tastes like s’mores.

  • Ritual Chocolate: At their Heber City cafe, Ritual has a delightful drinking chocolate flight featuring several different origins. You can buy the origins on their website if you want to do a flight of your own. I recommend the Belize!

  • Crio Bru: If this all sounds too rich for you, Crio Bru is a nice option. It’s a brewed cacao, and we use a French press when making it. It’s fairly bitter, something my husband loves, so I think adding a little sugar or cream enhances it. There are lots of different origins and roasts, so there’s a lot to try!

Chocolate recipe(s) of the week

This hot chocolate recipe came from a cookbook that my great-grandma made. Lurene Wilkinson died just shy of her 102nd birthday in 2016, and she was a consummate hostess. I love this cute recipe that has her all over it.

French Hot Chocolate

  • 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate*

  • 3/4 c. water

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

  • 1 c. sugar

  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped

  • 1 tsp. vanilla

  • milk

Combine the chocolate with water and cook over low heat until smooth and think, stirring constantly. Add salt and sugar; boil 5 minutes. Cool. Fold in whipped cream. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Spoon a heaping tablespoon of chocolate mixture into cup; pour hot (not boiled) milk over. The chocolate island will rise to the top of the cup. Do not stir. The hot, bland milk with the cold rich chocolate is elegant.

Will keep in the refrigerator 3-4 weeks. Especially nice for a tea party.


This second recipe is from my Mama Rene's grandson, my uncle Spencer. His voice is also so distinct, which is my favorite when reading recipes.

My sister makes this in a Blendtec, and she says the "hot" or "soup" button (depending on your model) is perfect for this.

When I made it last month, I used a Marou 100% chocolate bar and cocoa powder, and it was so rich and delicious! There was a little left over and after I stored it in the fridge, it set up like mousse, which was also quite good. (In retrospect, I used the whole chocolate bar instead of 1/2 a cup, so that might be the reason for that, haha.)

Spencer's Hot Cocoa Recipe

  • 4 c. whole milk

  • 1/2 c. sugar

  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder (obviously the higher the quality the better)

  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips or chocolate bar (obviously the higher the quality the better)

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients.

Whisking constantly, bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for like a minute.

Serve piping hot with marshmallows or whipped cream. (Or add some cold milk to reduce the heat and make it milkier.)

Chocolate bar of the week

When it comes to textures, I usually prefer smooth and silky bars. Sabadi, especially their chocolate with almonds and orange zest bar, may be the exception. The chocolate has a deep flavor, and the orange zest is subtle, and the almonds and sugar provide a satisfying grittiness.

Hope there’s chocolate in your weekend!

Send me your favorite hot chocolate recipes or mix-ins!

Or have a picture a coworker sent me of some bean-to-bar salted caramel bark that made it out on a snow adventure.

Kyle Dunphey