Around a year ago, I stumbled across a new brand of hot chocolate in Sainsbury's I hadn't come across before: Hasslacher's.
The 250g bag of hot chocolate beads stood out on the shelf, not only because of its packaging design but because it contained a staggering 100% cacao. I was curious to see what 100% cacao hot chocolate tasted like, and whether a product like this was easy to work with as a consumer. So I bought a bag and spend a while figuring out the best hot chocolate recipe for these full-on chocolate drops.
The pouch of Hasslacher's Hot Drinking Chocolate was tan, black, and red in colour. There were loads of details on the front - almost too much - that made it look quite busy. In essence, what I had here was a bag was 100% cacao drops, made from Criollo and Trinitario cacao beans grown in Columbia. Made using 'cacao fino de aroma' (the world's best 7% cacao as graded by the World Cocoa Foundation), the chocolate drops were 100% natural and have no added sugar.
The ingredients list on the reverse of the packaging was as short as they come:
Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate ingredients:
100% cacao liquor. Cocoa solids content 99% minimum.
You can't get purer than that! Unsurprisingly, the sugar content in the chocolate drops was 0%.
The lack of ingredients meant this was suitable for vegetarians and vegans alike. While the recipe contained no known allergens, the chocolate was packed in an environment that handled nuts.
The rear of the packaging also explained a bit about Hasslacher's. The company supports sustainable farming that preserves the natural forest. The packaging talked about the producer founding the Granja Luker farm in 1962. The name rang a bell in my mind, and after a little bit of digging around, I traced this back to CasaLuker, my preferred chocolate brand of choice right now for my hot chocolate experiments.
A vague set of instructions on how to make hot chocolate were printed on the packaging. Hasslacher's recommends 15g of drops (providing 16 servings in a 250g bag) mixed with "some" milk.
It was a versatile product too. As it was simply 100% cacao, it could be used to make chocolate treats as well as to enhance savoury recipes. In fact, the rear of the packaging listed plenty of suggestions on what you can make with it:
- Chocolate beverages
- Chocolate biscuits
- Chocolate sauces
- Chocolate brownies
- Chocolate coins
- Chocolate syrup
- Chocolate truffles
- Chocolate ice cream
- Chocolate cakes
- Chocolate liqueur
- Chocolate-dipped fruit
- Chocolate pudding
- Chocolate spread
- Chocolate fudge
- Petit Fours
- Mole sauce
I've added a handful of chocolate drops to my Chili con Carne recipe on several occasions to add extra depth. It's unusual, but the flavour really does work.
Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate Review
Unlike many other hot chocolate blends, beads, and powders, the Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate is pure unadulterated chocolate. When it comes to hot chocolate, that's both a good and bad thing.
The good aspect is that you can control exactly what goes into your hot chocolate. You can choose whether or not to add a sweetener (refined sugar, unrefined sugar, sugar alternatives, natural sweeteners like pure honey, etc.), and you can blend it with whatever liquid you choose (dairy milk, non-dairy milk such as nut milk or soya milk, or even hot water). It hasn't been premixed with milk powder or refined sugars so it's up to you how this ends up tasting.
This freedom to play around is also a negative point. These chocolate buttons are so intense it takes a lot of work to find the right balance for your individual tastes.
I'm on the last few drops in my bag and still haven't quite found a blend that works perfectly each time. But I'm close.
The fragrance of the chocolate was intense. As soon as I opened the bag I could pick up the trademark characteristics of good Columbian chocolate. Lively, fruity, nutty notes dance away, with a subtle citrus vibe flowing through it. A gentle smokey leatheriness sat as a bassline to the high level notes. It certainly boasted a lot of character and life.
The 1½cm-wide chocolate drops were understandably dark in colour and matt in texture. Despite their diminutive size, they still let out a powerful clean and crisp snap.
Upon tasting, these drops were incredibly dry, again understandably so. It was quite a slow melt but as it did, it revealed more intensity and more bitterness. The flavours developed throughout the melt, with initial hints of coffee and Brazil nut dancing along to notes of cherry, peanut, and almond towards the end, with just a hint of smokiness in-between. It was a complex flavour that was exciting and very much alive.
Melt these beads with hot water (the Hot Chocolate Shaker is ideal for this) for a quick and easy alternative to an espresso. It's intense, bitter, and a little goes a long way. For most people, this will be far too strong to enjoy, but it is the purest way to enjoy this hot chocolate. If you love high percentage dark chocolate bars, try this.
The flavours melded into one in this water-based hot chocolate. The aroma was intensely chocolatey with dark scents and a nose of Marmite about it. The taste danced around similar to when I tasted it in solid form. It was a lively cocoa, albeit with a strong bitter twist. It was incredibly rich, with hints of coffee and earthy nuts coming through. There was a slight hint of smokiness and leatheriness that materialised in the aftertaste, alongside the bitterness.
I preferred making this hot chocolate with dairy milk as it added a creaminess to the diverse flavour of the cacao, helping to soften the intensity slightly. Adding sugar helped to make it more palatable, and I suspect this is how most people enjoy this product. I settled on equal quantities of both cacao and sugar to find my own sweet spot. Replacing sugar with honey gave it an unusual flavour but the floral notes in the bee's handiwork played well against the fruity aspects of this cacao.
The long and short of this one is that this was pure cacao in chocolate drop form. In its raw form, it was dry, bitter, and intense. Most people will find this far too strong. However, when blended with milk and sugar, it softens and becomes more rounded, while retaining its diverse flavours. It still has a keen intensity about it, but it is somewhat gentler in approach when made this way.
I don't think this is an everyday hot chocolate and is better suited as an indulgent treat when you fancy something a little deeper and darker. You do need to work through various incarnations to identify a recipe that you like, with a blend of liquids and sweeteners if you like. Hit the sweet spot and this is like liquid gold.
Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate Review
RRP: £4.00 | Hasslacher's | Shop now°
Strong, powerful, and intense. They're all buzz words but they perfectly describe this Colombian hot chocolate. These chocolate drops are versatile and can be used in cookery as well as making hot chocolate. The cacao exhibits a wide reaching flavour that's perfect for true chocolate lovers, but it does require some trial and error creating the perfect hot chocolate recipe blend that's right for you.
You can buy Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate direct from the Hasslacher's website, or from Amazon°, Ethical Superstore, or local independent deli's. It's available in block form and chocolate drop form, and I'd suggest the latter is easier to work with.
Have you tried Hasslacher's 100% Hot Drinking Chocolate? How do you enjoy making yours? Share your hints and tips in the comments below.