Are Cocoa Powder, Hot Chocolate & Drinking Chocolate Different?

Cocoa powder, hot chocolate mix, and drinking chocolate are all winter staples and though they are often considered interchangeable, they are actually quite different. These chocolate essentials, while seemingly similar offer different results in terms of taste, flavour, consistency and aroma.

Did you know that cocoa powder is derived from cocoa beans and then meticulously processed into a fine powder, and actually traces its roots back to ancient Mesoamerican civilizations? The Aztecs and Mayans revered cocoa as a sacred elixir, using it in rituals and ceremonies long before it journeyed to distant shores. 

Meanwhile, hot chocolate mix emerged in the 19th century as a convenient solution for the public who wanted the comforting warmth of chocolate during chilly winters but at a convenient price. So, how is drinking chocolate different from cocoa powder and hot chocolate mixes? Let’s delve a bit deeper and see exactly how different they are.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder is usually derived from cocoa beans that have been fermented, dried, roasted, and ground into a fine powder. It is the pure essence of chocolate, with no added sugar or fats. Cocoa powder is available in two main varieties: natural cocoa powder and Dutch-processed cocoa powder.

Natural cocoa powder is made from cocoa beans that have been roasted and ground, natural cocoa powder has a rich, intense chocolate flavour with a slightly acidic taste. It is light brown in colour and is commonly used in baking recipes for cakes, cookies, brownies etc.

Dutch-processed cocoa powder undergoes a process called Dutching, which neutralises its acidity and gives it a smoother, milder flavour. It has a darker colour and a milder chocolate taste compared to natural cocoa powder and some people find Dutch-processed cocoa powder to be more balanced. It is often used in recipes where a deep chocolate flavour and colour are needed, especially in puddings or souffles.

Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot chocolate mix is a prepackaged blend of cocoa powder, sugar, and sometimes milk solids or powdered milk. It is designed to be easily mixed with hot water or milk to create a quick and convenient hot chocolate beverage. Hot chocolate mix typically contains added sweeteners and flavourings to enhance its taste and richness. Though it is similar to cocoa powder, hot chocolate mix is formulated specifically for making hot chocolate drinks rather than for baking purposes.

Drinking Chocolate

Drinking chocolate, also known as hot cocoa or sipping chocolate, is made from finely ground chocolate combined with milk or cream. Unlike cocoa powder or hot chocolate mix, which are primarily cocoa-based, drinking chocolate typically features real chocolate, which lends it a velvety texture with intense chocolate flavour.

It mainly consists of finely ground chocolate, sugar, and sometimes additional flavourings such as vanilla or spices. Some artisanal drinking chocolates may contain minimal additives, focusing on the pure essence of chocolate.

The Key Differences

Drinking chocolate is different from hot cocoa mixes because it’s made with full-fat chocolate and with none of the cocoa butter removed. Drinking chocolate is the closest thing you have to actually drinking chocolate since it’s essentially a cup of chocolate that has been diluted with some milk.

Hot chocolate, on the other hand, is essentially a flavouring made with dehydrated cocoa powder, which can be added to certain recipes to add a chocolate flavour. More often than not, drinking chocolate is a cup of pure chocolate, diluted with milk. 

It’s important to note that though cocoa powder provides a deep chocolate flavour with a slightly acidic or bitter taste, it’s not actually made of chocolates but rather dehydrated cocoa. Drinking chocolate has the richest and most intense chocolate flavour of the three, thanks to the real chocolate. 

Cocoa powder needs to be mixed with milk and sugar if you want to make hot chocolate with it. Hot chocolate mix, on the other hand, is designed to be mixed with hot water or milk and dissolves easily. Drinking chocolate requires melting the chocolate mixture with milk or cream to create a rich and indulgent beverage. It involves more preparation compared to hot chocolate mix since it’s more versatile and not designed for just one purpose.