Hot chocolate or warm sugar?

hotchoc01A couple of mornings a week I enjoy a hot chocolate with my breakfast.

I was brought up in an era when the Cadbury factory in Dunedin supplied New Zealand with most of its chocolate. Being from the south, it’s no surprise I’ve always bought Cadbury drinking chocolate by default. Until recently I’ve never considered there might be alternatives, but globalisation means Cadbury chocolate is now mostly produced in Australia, which has ended brand loyalty for a surprisingly large number of Kiwis including me.

A few months ago I started looking at the supermarket shelves with questing eyes. Could there a better option? I ignored the faux chocolat products – NestlĂ© Milo and cheap house brands – which get their flavour from malted grains and have only a pinch of cocoa, if any at all.

hotchoc03First I tried Free Trade Hot Chocolate … and I was stunned. It tasted far richer and more chocolate-like than the product I was used to. The next time I bought a packet I checked the ingredients. Woah! That Free Trade Hot Chocolate stated on the packet that it was 40% sugar. I was appalled, but only briefly. The Cadbury packet didn’t state how much sugar it contained, but my calculation based on the fine print was an appalling 75% sugar. That makes the Free Trade product positively healthy. It also makes the Free Trade Hot Chocolate better value on a “chocolate by weight” basis.

Then I saw a packet of Dutch Drinking Chocolate. It contains 0% sugar – it’s entirely cocoa. I’ve been drinking this for a couple of months now. Initially it was problematic: I tended to make it too strong, and it never seemed sweet enough. Both issues were legacies of the years using Cadbury’s low cocoa, high sugar drinking chocolate.

hotchoc02I have a relatively low sugar diet, avoiding sweetened drinks and foods as much as possible. I knew that my taste buds had been conditioned by decades of what was, really, a chocolate flavoured sugar drink. Thirty years ago when I went from two sugars to no sugar in my coffee it took months to get used to; adjusting to a new drinking chocolate won’t happen overnight.

I have time to experiment though. Because of the higher cocoa content, a packet of Dutch Drinking Chocolate lasts me twice as long as a packet of the Cadbury product. It is, admittedly, 150% of the price.

So I’m on an interesting journey as I try to find the right balance. I don’t find the drinking chocolate attractive with no sugar, but I’m progressively decreasing the dose. I’m now taking less sugar than the Free Trade Hot Chocolate contained and not finding my enjoyment diminished. What’s best about this change is the rich chocolate taste; something the product I was brought up with never delivered.