For me, the perfect antidote for a hectic day during the busy pre-Christmas season is a few solitary moments spent savouring a cup of good quality hot chocolate.
While shopping for Christmas gifts at HomeSense a few days ago, I found a brand of hot chocolate mix I hadn’t heard of – Chuao Chocolatier. (Chuao is pronounced Chew WOW.)
Packaged in an attractive container, the contents rattled slightly when I turned the tin over to check the price of the mix. I was curious about the rattling noise (hot chocolate mix doesn’t usually make much of a sound), but the sticker price made me temporarily forget any unusual sound effects – $12.99 for 340 g or 12 ounces! (The original price was $18.00 but HomeSense sells things at 20 to 60% off.) Hmmm…if price was an indicator of quality, this would make one mighty fine cup of hot chocolate!
I ignored the price and examined the three types of Chuao Hot Chocolate on the shelf: Winter, Abuelo, and Spicy Maya. The text on the green and brown tin of Winter Hot Chocolate said the mix was made from bittersweet Venezuelan chocolate. It promised a rich, velvety flavour with the spices of winter: ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and pepper.
Abuelo was described as silky rich hot chocolate, “made from Grandma’s strict recipe”.
A rediscovery of an ancient Mayan recipe, Spicy Maya was made from premium dark chocolate, chiles, cayenne peppers and cinnamon.
I was curious about Chuao Chocolatier and its hot chocolate offerings, especially the Winter mix with its combination of spices. If it tasted good, it could make a great Christmas gift for the chocolate lovers on my list. I tucked a tin into my basket, burying it under a couple other items so I couldn’t see it and stress about the price. Out of sight, out of mind, I rationalized. At least until I had to pay for it!
At home later that evening, it was time to find out what $18.00 hot chocolate tasted like! When I removed the lid from the tin, the reason for the rattling noise was immediately obvious. Instead of a powdery smooth mix, this mix contained chunks of chocolate. Cool! Who wouldn’t want to actually see the chocolate in their hot chocolate mix?
I read the directions and proceeded as instructed, first boiling some water, then measuring 1/2 cup (125 mL) of it into a small cup. Three tablespoons (45 mL) of the chunky chocolate mix were stirred into the water. The chocolate melted easily with the heat. I then placed the mug in the microwave to bring the hot chocolate to a boil. About 30 seconds later, the mixture was boiling. (I kept a close watch on what was happening in the microwave as I didn’t want the hot chocolate to boil over.) I was then to whisk the hot chocolate for 30 seconds; instead, I used my battery operated hand-held frother to churn things up a little.
The result? A truly splendid cup of hot chocolate!
As promised, Chuao’s Winter Hot Chocolate was indeed a rich smooth drink and my small cupful was all I needed. I found the drink’s spicy nuances of clove and nutmeg and the bit of heat from the pepper to be most balanced when the hot chocolate had cooled a little.
The verdict? I may have to ration it so I can afford to drink it, but Winter Hot Chocolate might well become my drink of choice over the long, cold months ahead, especially when I just want to take a few minutes for a time-out during a busy day.
Because of the addition of spices, Chuao’s Winter Hot Chocolate might not be enjoyed by traditional hot chocolate drinkers. If you’re a hot chocolate purist, you might want to try the Abuelo mix.
You can visit Chuao’s web site to see what other kinds of chocolatey products they have for sale, but be aware the company does not ship outside the U.S. If you’re interested in sourcing Chuao’s hot chocolate mix, check the shelves of food products at your local HomeSense (or Winners), or try a gourmet or chocolate shop.