What Makes a Great Hot Cocoa Mix?

Hot cocoa is a winter necessity! With or without marshmallows, it’s asweet, hot beverage favorite. A high quality hot cocoa drink mix should lead with cocoa and dairy in both the aroma and flavor profiles. It may have some malt and vanilla notes, but not molasses notes. While sweet is the leading taste intensity, it should not be cloying nor overwhelm the cocoa flavor intensity. The cocoa should have some richness and mouth weight and not be watery. There may also be some minimal chalkiness andastringency in the texture, but it should not be gritty. The cocoa drink mix should dissolve easily when mixed as directed with hot water and there may be some visible foam. There were two different flights during this taste test: regular and marshmallow. For the marshmallow flight: The marshmallows should remain visible until at least after stirring. They have both received the Best Taste Award.

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Tasting terms

  • sweet

    One of the basic tastes; often considered pleasing while exhibiting characteristics of sugar. Example: Honey, ripe fruits and syrup all have a pronounced sweet component.

  • aroma

    The smell that emanates from food. Along with appearance, texture, flavor and taste, aroma is one of the five dimensions used to evaluate a product. Example: Brownies should have an aroma that includes chocolate as well as egg, toasty and sweet notes.

  • flavor

    A combination of a food's basic taste and its accompanying aroma, flavor is the distinctive taste of a food or ingredient while it is in the mouth. Along with aroma, appearance, texture and taste, flavor is one of the five dimensions considered by ChefsBest Master Tasters. Example: Chocolate chip cookies should have a moderate chocolate flavor accompanied by a slightly lower level of complex dough flavor that includes egg, flour, vanilla and brown sugar notes.

  • cloying

    Disgust or sicken (someone) with an excess of sweetness, richness, or sentiment.

  • flavor intensity

    A measurement of the strength of a flavor in a particular food. Example: High-quality chocolate will have high cocoa flavor intensity.

  • richness

    Associated with creamy and dense mouthfeel; often evident in products containing significant amounts of butter or cream. Example: Alfredo sauce, coffee and super premium ice cream can be described as rich.

  • astringency

    The tendency of some foods to cause the mouth to pucker; often associated with the presence of tannins or acidity. Example: Red wine, tea, grapefruit juice and pickles can be astringent.

  • texture

    A dimension used to organize attributes like mouthfeel, graininess and initial bite, it is one of the five dimensions used by ChefsBest Master Tasters to evaluate food. Example: Glazed popcorn will have a crunch texture. The texture of milk chocolate should be creamy and smooth.

  • flight

    A group of products that are similar enough to each other to be judged together. Products within a given flight generally have common attributes that vary in a significant way from products in related flights. Example: An ice cream judging may have flights of vanilla, chocolate, coffee and butter pecan, all judged separately.