Hot chocolate and hot cocoa are two names that seem to be used interchangeably. Are they actually the same beverage, or is there a difference?
The Short Answer:
No, hot chocolate and hot cocoa are two different beverages.
The Long Answer:
The winter months are fast approaching, and as those cold fronts move in, they bring untold amounts of snow and ice, wind chill, and frozen noses. There is nothing better on those cold winter nights than snuggling under a warm blanket and sipping a piping hot cup of hot chocolate…or hot cocoa…which are not the same thing.
Chances are if you buy your warm chocolatey beverages from a supermarket, you’ve only ever had hot cocoa.
What’s the difference, you ask?
There’s no legal definition distinguishing the two, so labels can be misleading. Hot cocoa is often thin and sweet. It is made from mixing cocoa powder with milk and sugar. That’s not to say other flavors can’t be added to the mix. A lot of hot cocoa includes various spices, vanilla, and even liqueur.
Hot chocolate, which can also be referred to as drinking chocolate or sipping chocolate, is made from actual shaved chocolate instead of cocoa powder. Ordinarily, the chocolate is shaved into fine pieces which allows it to melt more easily. Hot chocolate is richer than hot cocoa because chocolate is naturally high in fat. Typically, the chocolate shavings are mixed together with water or milk. Hot chocolate is thicker and less sweet than hot cocoa.
Because there are no official U.S. laws which state the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa, you see a lot of supermarket products labeling hot cocoa as hot chocolate. When I researched this article, I realized that I’ve never actually had real hot chocolate. Throughout my entire life of Swiss Miss and market brand mixes, I’ve always had hot cocoa.
When you look at the differences between hot cocoa and hot chocolate it boils down to the major differences between chocolate and cocoa. Both come from the cacao tree. Cacao beans are fermented, roasted, shelled, ground up, and then turned into a fine paste. At this point, the product could become cocoa or chocolate.
What we know as cocoa is the powdered remnants of the processed cacao beans, which features little to no cocoa butter. Chocolate contains a lot of cocoa butter, which makes it richer and smoother while adding more to the fat and sugar content.
Do you prefer hot chocolate or hot cocoa? Have you ever had true hot chocolate? Do you add marshmallows or sprinkles? Sound off below and let us know!