Bittersweet: The Hot Chocolate Experiment

After a cold day at a Norther California beach I promised my nieces and nephew a nice cup of Fair Trade hot chocolate. The excitement level was through the roof. Just the night before we screened the film “The Dark Side of Chocolate” with the whole family, all 14 of them, including the five children. When they found out we were going to have hot chocolate, and it was Fair Trade Certified, they were buzzing. I on the other hand was a little nervous. I had two varieties of hot chocolate and I had never made either one. This was going to be interesting. It was the first test of an experiment that began with a Christmas party and a group of students.

The experiment seemed simple enough: find a “Fair Trade” alternative for hot chocolate. As I posted before we had some students over to our house for a Christmas party but we were out of hot chocolate. I went to my local Safeway to see if they had a fair trade option but I came up empty handed. So I was determined to see what was out there at some of the different merchants in my area. The experiment took about a month and covered a distance of over 200 miles.

For starters I checked out my local Whole Foods in Santa Rosa and came up with two options: Theo Rich and Dark sipping chocolate & DOGOBA Authentic drinking chocolate. They also carried Green & Blacks Hot Chocolate but I didn’t get that variety.

That evening I was going to make both brands. Both required heating up milk on the stove top and stirring in the coco mix. I decided to make the Theo mix with 1% Milk and the DOGOBA with plain SILK soy milk.  I had kids anxiously waiting and parents wondering if Fair Trade was legit. For such a simple thing I was under a lot of pressure. I heated up the two milk types and started stirring the chocolate. After a few sips I frantically called my wife into the kitchen. Neither were sweet enough, both very heavy on the dark chocolate flavor and the Silk milk was overpowering the flavor of chocolate. This was not good…

I could not salvage the the Silk and DOGOBA combination. It was horrible and I ended up pouring it down the drain. To save the Theo and milk batch I broke out some fair trade sugar to mix in. My mistake was getting a “dark chocolate” variety for kids. It was good, just not rich and smooth. I increased the milk and sugar and eventually came up with a mixture that was suitable to the kids. My wife was the taste tester and helped me avoid a mutiny. My niece Madison said it was the best cup of hot chocolate she had ever tasted. I was a proud uncle!

Since the family was on vacation and we were in a new area I decided to see what other brands of hot chocolate I could find. We were in the Mendocino Coast area and I was able to tour the supermarkets in Gualala, Point Arena, Mendocino and Fort Bragg. The stores that provided the best options were Harvest Market in Fort Bragg and Surf Supermarket in Gualala.

The second step of this test happened on a Friday night a couple of days ago. We again had a group of students over to the house and this time we were going to take a full-moon hike out in the woods near our house. The plan was to take some hot chocolate with us and have it when we arrived at the midway point of our hike. I had purchased the Equal Exchange variety at the Harvest Market and was thankful that this variety only required hot water for the mix. I mixed it up and put it into a few Thermos containers for our hike. When we reached our midway point in a large clearing we broke out the chocolate and enjoyed the cool evening and clear stars with an awesome cup of hot chocolate in our hands!

For ease of preparation and best taste my vote is for Equal Exchange Hot Chocolate. I still have a few varieties to check out but at least I know that it is out there and I know where to get it. To find out where you can get Fair Trade items in your area, check out my MAP page for a listing of where to buy in California.

A word of caution. Always test a new product before you tell the masses what you are preparing just in case things don’t go as planned. This would have saved me from stressing out about what my nieces and nephew were going to think. Lucky for me things turned out ok.

2 thoughts on “Bittersweet: The Hot Chocolate Experiment

  1. Dude, thanks for the tip, I’m going to quest for that stuff out here. By the way, I loved the cup at the beach house as did Daphne! She now asks if chocolate is fair trade, totally rad.

    Keep up the great work!


  2. Nice post! Yeah, it’s cool that all the kids really want to buy fair trade chocolate now. Even our 8 year old niece said that was her New Year’s resolution – to only buy chocolate that was fair trade! Sweet!

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