Hot Chocolates, From A to Vosges


Photo by chatirygirl/FlickrCC

The snow is piled up in Washington, D.C. Even the White House has called off most activities. And more snow is expected. Time for hot chocolate. One of my favorite memories of childhood is hot chocolate after horsing around—sledding, snow ball fighting, tackle football, or just plain making snow angels—with my brothers and friends in the winter snow.

I decided to see what hot chocolates are on offer. There are certainly plenty more than when I was a kid, and plenty of specialty chocolates that did not exist when I was growing up. I put five to the test.

This stuff is the opposite of Kshocolat. It is hot chocolate as a full meal.

Angelina is a French chocolate I brought back from Paris. The package says you can make it with water or milk. If you are forced to make chocolate with boiling water because you cannot boil milk or are making it in the office, Angelina certainly beats out Swiss Miss, Nestle, or the other hot chocolate packages. But when made with water it was one-dimensional, lacking depth and richness. Even with milk, Angelina seemed a bit empty.

Last year I discovered the Vosges La Parisienne Couture, which has dark chocolate mixed with vanilla bean pieces. This was my favorite. It is dark and has a slightly bitter taste, but is very smooth on the tongue. Frankly it was a bit hard to taste the vanilla. It seemed a little weak, which could have been my hesitancy in spooning on the mixture.

The third choice was out of Kansas City, Christopher Elbow. It comes in a white tea tin, like Twinings's loose-leaf tins. This "noir" hot chocolate is rich but not heavy. Yet it has a—I am not sure how to describe it—funny taste at the start. A bit oily. I find it off-putting.

My fourth choice was Kshocolat dark. This stuff comes in a great brushed metal can. The funny thing is the company is based in Glasgow but the actual chocolate comes from Belgium. This drink has a gentle bitterness and is neither very sweet nor earthy in the way dark chocolate can be. It has a dried-cherry overtone. Overall, it is a rich but not heavy or sweet hot chocolate. Very satisfying.

My last tasting was LA Burdick, a dark hot chocolate from Walpole, New Hampshire. This stuff is the opposite of Kshocolat. It is hot chocolate as a full meal—very rich and very heavy. LA Burdick comes in a 12-ounce pouch with a very small whisk attached. The bag only has four servings in it, and the nutrition facts indicate that each serving is 500 calories! It is so rich, 36 grams of fat per serving, it could clog your arteries all by itself. And well worth it: complex, with slight earthy or smokiness of dark chocolate. And what I really like about it is that the package recommends scalding the milk to be sure it is very, very hot. Just the way I like it—if you nurse it for a while it still can warm your innards.

If you like rich but light, delicate, and not too sweet, go for Kshocolat. Rich and full bodied, and if you can afford a few extra calories every day, LA Burdick is your drink. And if you just have to have hot chocolate in the office and cannot boil the milk, Angelina is certainly better than Swiss Miss.

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Ezekiel J. Emanuel

Ezekiel Emanuel is director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health and heads the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

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