Tuesday 21 November 2017

Hotel Chocolat Winter Spice Hot Chocolate Review

   If you've been with me for even a month, you'll know I'm a huge tea drinker. It's rare that I'll drink anything else - just a glass of kefir milk every morning, and a water bottle with my workout (which I make sure I always polish off). Otherwise, I drink a variety of teas every day, and green is easily my best. But even when it's black tea, I'll never add milk or sugar. I drink my tea black - or green, or white, or red.
   My point is, I never drink my calories.
   Until, of course, there's a distant ringing of sleigh bells.

   Come Christmas, my diet changes, as does my workout (25 minutes of resistance followed by additional 15-20 of kickboxing, 4 days a week, has been my guaranteed Christmas-proof plan for the past 2 years), and that means that I start broadening my beverages. But, as I don't drink alcohol either beyond a little bit of Buck's Fizz through the festive season, there is only one beverage that takes centre-stage as a Christmas treat: hot chocolate.
   My best friend has told me that she's become a hot chocolate snob, and I don't blame her. If you don't have it often, you want to make sure it's worth every slurp when you do. Yes, that means it can be decadent, but all the more reason to take it in moderation, and to enjoy it all the more.
   I have the same relationship with chocolate, and my go-to brand for the past 2 years has been Hotel Chocolat. Why? Because there's nothing artificial, and the cocoa content in their chocolate is very high - which means less sugar, and more of those health- and mood-boosting effects of chocolate. Even their white chocolate is around 40% cocoa (to put that in perspective, most generic milk chocolate contains only about 25% cocoa).
   So, when Hotel Chocolat released their festive hot chocolates, naturally I had to have a bucket mug.

    Hotel Chocolat's Winter Spice hot chocolate boasts over 50% of cocoa per 35g serving - without being dark chocolate - and its gorgeous flavour, riddled with Christmas spices, is both perfectly present and scintillatingly subtle. It's not overpowering in the least, and remains hot chocolate rather than a cup of hot spices.
   Unlike most hot chocolate, Hotel Chocolat's hot chocolates aren't powdered. They're chocolate shavings. But if you'd have bad experiences with those hot chocolate spoons - chunks of chocolate (or literal chocolate spoons) swirled into a mug of hot milk that didn't melt properly or even became gritty - there is no such problem here. The method is simple: heat 200-250ml of your preferred milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring gently until it begins to steam. Remove from the heat and add 35g of chocolate (about 6 heaped teaspoons), stir it in and then return to the heat, stirring continuously and gently again until the chocolate has fully (or more or less) melted. Pour into your favourite mug and top however you wish. I just sprinkled a few more shavings (and a touch of cacao powder) on top and it was wonderful. But, of course, you can try to recreate Hotel Chocolat's cafĂ© hot chocolates with thick double cream and a chocolate snowflake - but I'm saving that indulgence for a little closer to Christmas.

   As far as nutrition goes, Hotel Chocolat's hot chocolate is better than pretty much every other on the market, and I truly mean that. Beyond the taste and texture, there are also no artificial ingredients, flavours, sweeteners etc. It's a guilt-free guilty indulgence.
   At 101 calories per 100ml made up with skimmed milk, the calorie maths is easy (not that calorie counting matters when you're having a little indulgence, especially when you consider the fact that there is a huge difference between 200 calories of cake and 200 calories of fruit smoothie). I've made this with whole milk (64 calories per 100ml) and skimmed milk (35 calories per 100ml - due to the lack of fat, but of course that lack of fat means there's also less nutritional goodness), and while the whole milk hot chocolate was expectedly thicker, the skimmed milk chocolate was still delightful.

   I highly recommend Hotel Chocolat as a Christmas cupboard staple. It's higher quality in taste and texture than any other hot chocolate, and comes without any artificial nasties whatsoever. No compromises - you get what you didn't know you lacked. It's true that, at £9, Hotel Chocolat Winter Spice hot chocolate isn't cheap, but if it was cheap, you'd drink it all the time, right? Then it wouldn't be much of a treat anymore!


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