When you feel like all of your extremities are frozen, powdered hot chocolate mix can be handy in whipping up a steaming mug of hot coco. But not all hot chocolate mixes are created equal. In fact, sometimes they even taste “like a hot chocolate flavored crayon left in hot water”, as one of the hot chocolates in the taste test was described. I want all of you to avoid that unpleasant experience, so I decided to do a blind taste test on my roommates.*

Hot Chocolate

Photo by Xinwei Zeng

Now, without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to the contestants:

Safeway Rich Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix: $0.18 per serving

Pantry Essentials Dutch Style Hot Cocoa Mix: $0.19 per serving

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix: $0.12 per serving

Nestlé Rich Milk Chocolate Flavor Hot Cocoa Mix: $0.33 per serving

Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Premium Hot Cocoa: $0.72 per serving

Hot Chocolate

Photo by Xinwei Zeng

Safeway and Pantry Essentials are both Safeway “exclusive” brands. In my experience, the quality of Safeway brands varies significantly based on the item, so while certainly not the favorites, these two were definitely in the race. Nestlé and Swiss Miss are both very common hot chocolate brands. Swiss Miss seemed to be ubiquitous during my childhood, and I figured its popularity might be indicative of its quality. Ghirardelli, also available at most grocery stores, was by far the most expensive option. The price and the luxurious reputation of Ghirardelli products raised expectations for its hot chocolate.

Each of the four participants was given all five hot chocolates (made with 2% milk and following the directions on the box) in unmarked cups to taste and compare. They ranked their overall favorites and were asked to provide comments. The results were very surprising.

Hot Chocolate

Photo by Xinwei Zeng

5th Place: Ghirardelli
Every taster considered Ghirardelli the ultimate loser. This hot chocolate was described as “watery” and “bitter”, and received the particularly unfortunate comparison to a “hot chocolate flavored crayon left in hot water”. As it was also the most expensive, I would never consider buying this hot chocolate again. My (your) wallet and my (your) tastebuds deserve better.

4th Place: Pantry Essentials
The Pantry Essentials variety was described as “thinner” and “very sweet, but not thick and creamy”, but at only 19 cents a serving, it’s still a bargain.

3rd Place: Swiss Miss
The top three were all very close, each ranking first for at least one of the participants. The Swiss Miss variety was described positively as “creamy” and “thick and frothy”, but also as “almost too sweet.”

2nd Place: Nestlé
The Nestlé variety was described as “the most chocolatey, thick, and doesn’t taste like it came from powder.” A very close second, this is definitely worth trying.

1st Place: Safeway
In the underdog story of the year, the Safeway brand hot chocolate won the taste test. It was described as “the creamiest” and “very thick and chocolatey”.

While the Safeway brand might not end up being your personal favorite, as the highest ranked in this taste test and the second cheapest brand, it’s my new hot chocolate of choice.

Drink up, and stay warm!

*No roommates were harmed in the completion of this taste test, except one who burnt her tongue a little.