The best hot chocolate

January 25, 2008 12:23:51 PM PST
Sipping hot chocolate is a popular way to satisfy your sweet tooth this time of year. Americans spend almost 200 million dollars annually on hot cocoa. Consumer Reports tested hot chocolate and found some are delicious, while others leave something to be desired.

If you ask the Gabore family, any time is the right time to drink a cup of hot chocolate.

"I think hot chocolate is really refreshing and yummy," said Ethan Gabore.

Consumer Reports performed taste tests on 10 cocoas, including well-known ones like Hershey's, Nestle, and Swiss Miss. All were prepared according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Various extra ingredients were sometimes required, such as milk, water, vanilla, and sugar.

"A high-quality hot chocolate should have a full, complex chocolate flavor. There was a wide range in the cocoa drinks that we tested. They ranged from full and rich, to kind of thin and weak," said Erin Gudeux of Consumer Reports.

One way to improve the taste of the lower-rated hot chocolate drinks: use milk instead of water to make the cocoa.

"Using milk instead of water masked some of the defects of the lower-rated cocoas, though it didn't change the quality of the higher-rated ones," Gudeux said.

Consumer Reports rates two cocoas as excellent: Hershey's Cacao Reserve and Ghirardelli. But, great taste can come with a nutritional cost. Ghirardelli had the highest amount of calories and sugar of all the cocoas tested.

For a bit less money, Consumer Reports rates two other cocoas very good. They are Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate Sensation and Hershey's Cocoa.