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Reviewing My Festive Hot Chocolate Haul at Hotel Chocolat

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The biting cold wind is fast drawing in and so I found myself looking longfully at my hot chocolate maker thinking it was about time I put it to good use. 

During a trip to Bridgend Designer Outlet I came across a couple of hot chocolate pouches for the Velvetiser on a clearance offer. Then,  the company sent me a retail promotion (as part of the VIP.ME club) which I used to stock up on a few other varieties.

While these products are specifically designed for the Velvetiser, they are, in essence just flaked chocolate which can be used in any hot chocolate maker. That's a good thing as my kitchen isn't big enough for the shiny copper Velvetiser I desire, but I do own the more compact Hot Chocolate Shaker designed by The Chocolate Society. Personally, I think these gadgets, while very different in style and application, deliver similar end results. I've written reviews on both so you can decide whether the premium Velvetiser is for you, or whether the hot chocolate maker / exercise equipment of the Hot Chocolate Shaker is a better fit for your home. 

So, back to the hot chocolate. What does festive hot chocolate smell and taste like, and which would I stock up on?

For each of the hot chocolates I review below, my method for making them was exactly the same. I used 220ml of filtered semi-skimmed milk and measured out 35g of chocolate flakes.  The single-serve sachets are pre-portioned at 35g. While I opted for moo juice, you can use dairy milk or plant-based milk to make your hot chocolate your own (a necessity if you wish to make a vegan hot chocolate for selected flavours below). Experiment with a variety of bases to see what works best for you.

Just so you know, these hot chocolates typically either contain - or contain traces of - common allergens, including milk and soya, tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, wheat, egg, and sesame. All recipes are suitable for vegetarians and are all alcohol-free. These hot chocolate flakes are all produced in the UK using West African cocoa.


Hotel Chocolat Mince Pie Drinking Chocolate Review

The front of the drinking chocolate pouch packaging features a red coloured band at the top with the Hotel Chocolat logo beneath, and the product name beneath that. The blurb describes this as a "festive favourite" and highlights the cinnamon, raisin, and citrus flavour notes. It also describes this is a "mellow chocolate", which is interesting given its make-up (a blend of spiced white and dark chocolate flakes). Its selling point, besides the fact that it is entirely "real grated chocolate", is that this value pouch holds enough flakes to serve up seven mugs of hot chocolate.

Penny pinching tip - Ordinarily, outside of this review, I would use 30g, which equates to eight mugs of hot chocolate from this pouch without a noticeable drop in flavour, intensity, or quality.

The rear is red in colour and begins with two recipes - one for a classic hot chocolate and the other for, in essence, a chilled chocolate milkshake. Beneath that sits the ingredients and nutritional information lists.

Hotel Chocolat Mince Pie Drinking Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa butter cocoa mass), sugar, full cream milk powder, skimmed milk powder, flavourings, emulsifier (soya lecithin), ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg. Cocoa solids: 70% minimum (dark chocolate). Cocoa butter: 36% minimum (white chocolate). Milk solids: 27% minimum (white chocolate).

  • 250g (seven 35g servings, with a tiny bit left over).
  • 39.2% sugars (excluding the milk of your choice).
  • Non-recyclable pouch.

The chocolate flakes are exactly how you would expect them to be, with shards spanning many different sizes from centimetre-long flecks to microscopic particles - all perfect for quickly melting into a silken hot chocolate, regardless of whether you are using the classic pan-and-hob method, a gadget such as the Hot Chocolate Shaker, or the official Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser.

The aroma is exquisitely festive. There's a strong medley of vine fruits and citrus, enveloped in a spiced dark brown sugar syrup. The fragrance is unmistakably that of mincemeat. All that's missing is notes of buttery flaky shortcrust pastry.

The cocoa is powerless to shine above these top-line notes in flake form, however, it comes to life when made up. The hot chocolate pulls on the vine fruit and citrus notes to create a flavour that mimics a luxuriously fruity mince pie filling. Hotel Chocolat has nailed the flavour perfectly, without veering one way or the other. It's sweet (but not overly), creamy, and above all, utterly satisfying. This is one flavour I'd stock up on, although it somehow tastes better out in the cold.

Feeling naughty? Add a splash of rum or brandy to your hot chocolate for a boozy festive kick. Just a dash will do it, but will add an extra warmth in your belly and will up the merriment, no doubt.

Great news - Mince Pie Hot Chocolate is now also available in sachets (£13.50; 10 sachets). See here.

Hotel Chocolat Mince Pie Drinking Chocolate Review

RRP: £8.50 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

My favourite flavour from all of the pouches on review here, Hotel Chocolat has nailed the mince pie flavour in hot chocolate form. It's utterly divine and highly addictive. It's hot chocolate's answer to Christmas, and it certainly puts me in a festive mood.

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Score: 4.6

Hotel Chocolat Vegan 45% Nutmilk Drinking Chocolate Review

The packaging for the Nutmilk drinking chocolate follows a similar design ethos to the mince pie variety above, with an identical layout but a nutty brown colour instead. 

Nutmilk is Hotel Chocolat’s vegan alternative to milk chocolate, using finely milled hazelnut flour to mimic a smooth and mellow milk chocolate - without any dairy ingredients.  I had wanted to try the Nutmilk batons, for a while so when I saw this on the shelf, I couldn't resist giving it a go. 

Hotel Chocolat Vegan 45% Nutmilk Drinking Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa butter, cocoa mass), sugar, hazelnut flour (17%), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin). Cocoa solids: 45% minimum.

  • 250g (seven 35g servings, with a tiny bit left over).
  • 32.9% sugars (excluding the milk of your choice - remember to use a plant-based milk to make a vegan hot chocolate).
  • Vegan friendly, but it is produced in a factory that handles dairy milk products.
  • Non-recyclable pouch.

This drinking chocolate is available year-round, but is obviously a big hit each Veganuary.

I only had semi-skimmed dairy milk to hand so sampled this hot chocolate in its non-vegan form. Clearly, if you want to make a vegan hot chocolate, you'd need to trade out the dairy milk for a plant-based alternative. Oat milk risks overpowering the subtlety of the hazelnut in this recipe. Customers seem to rave about using soya milk with this product. I suspect it might be a case of trying it with several varieties of plant-based milk to find the flavour combination that works for you.

In the bag, the chocolate flakes do give off an aroma that's not a million miles from a higher percentage traditional milk chocolate recipe, which is no mean feat. It's rich, curiously creamy, and sweet, with only the slightest hint of nuttiness.

When transformed into hot chocolate, the hazelnut aroma comes out more. The faint flavour reminds me of a hazelnut praline - think along the lines of a more luxurious Green Triangle from the Quality Street selection than a fine gianduja.

Personally, I'd consider this a milder alternative to Hotel Chocolat's Hazelnut Praline Hot Chocolate (here), which is also vegan. That uses a 70% dark chocolate base and hazelnut paste whereas this uses a 45% chocolate base and hazelnut flour. If you like hazelnuts but hate dark chocolate, this 45% Nutmilk alternative might be a winner for you.

While the hazelnut flavour comes through, it's sat very firmly in the centre of a creamy, chocolate flavour. It's sweet, thanks to the lower percentage cocoa in here, but it balances well and leaves a very mild hazelnut flavour behind.

It's cleverly executed, with a remarkable creaminess achieved without the use of dairy products. The hazelnut flavour isn't particularly forceful, but it's not meant to be. It's a tad sweet for my liking, and I'd prefer a richer cocoa base, but I can understand the appeal of this Nutmilk drinking chocolate.

Hotel Chocolat Vegan 45% Nutmilk Drinking Chocolate Review

RRP: £8.50 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

Nutmilk is Hotel Chocolat's vegan 'milk' chocolate alternative, and here it is in hot chocolate form. It doesn't mimic milk chocolate exactly as the hazelnut flavour gives it away, but it is nevertheless very enjoyable. If you like hazelnuts, give this a go. And no, you don't have to be a vegan to enjoy it, as it can be made up with dairy milk or nut milk as you see fit.

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Score: 4.4

Hotel Chocolat Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate Review

Breaking from pouches, we move onto boxes of sachets, that look more giftworthy to be honest. The cardboard box is black, with a hot chocolate and chocolate milkshake motif across the top and down the front. A purple-coloured band caps the top and includes the Hotel Chocolat logo, the product name and information that this box contains ten single servings. One side of the box contains the hot chocolate and chocolate milkshake recipes, while the other lists the "library" of drinking chocolate and latte products Hotel Chocolat stocked at the time of production (see below).

Hotel Chocolat Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate Review
Hotel Chocolat Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate

As a sidenote, this item was available with a festive sleeve, so I ordered that to get an idea of what this would look like if given or received as a Christmas gift. The sleeve is a vibrant red cardboard band that slips over the box. It has a red metallic holographic film forming a snowflake on the front, along with the text "Merry Christmas." The Hotel Chocolat sits on the top in white. The lack of other information means these sleeves can be applied to pretty much every hot chocolate sachet box in the range. It's simple, yet effective, and a good option should you be treating someone to hot chocolate this December.

Hotel Chocolat Merry Christmas Sleeve
Hotel Chocolat's Merry Christmas Box Sleeve

Anyway, back to the Black Forest hot chocolate. The rear of the box describes this flavour as a "duo of morello and black cherries mellowed with smooth dark and creamy white chocolate". Below this sits the ingredients and nutritional lists.

Hotel Chocolat Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar, full cream milk powder, morello cherry powder (5%) (maltodextrin, morello cherry juice powder, flavouring), flavourings, skimmed milk powder, emulsifier (soya lecithin). Cocoa solids: 70% minimum (dark chocolate). Cocoa butter: 36% minimum (white chocolate). Milk solids: 27% minimum (white chocolate).

  • 350g (ten sachets of 35g servings).
  • 29.9% sugars on average, (excluding the milk of your choice).
  • Recyclable box, but the sachets cannot easily be recycled at home (although they can be returned to Hotel Chocolat stores for recycling).

Opening the pouch reveals a sweet cherry aroma, with cake-like undertones. The fragrance of morello cherry sits high up, while general chocolatey notes sit underneath.

Steaming away in my mug, the chocolate cake aromas waft out much more prominently, with tantalising morello cherry strands running just beneath it. The aroma reminds me of a classic Black Forest Gateau, albeit in a hot form. 

This follows through into the taste, with a deliciously thick and creamy texture and shed loads of cherry notes. Happily, it tastes like a slice of Black Forest Gateau smushed up into a hot chocolate.

Despite the fact this recipe contains both dark chocolate and white chocolate, the balance between the two is spot on, with it weighing in mid-way between sweet and bitter.

The chocolate cherry flavour lingers long into aftertaste as does the memory. This is definitely one of my favourites from Hotel Chocolat range, and one I would keep stocks of in my cupboard. 

Hotel Chocolat Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate Review

RRP: £13.50 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

Imagine a generous serving of Black Forest Gateau alongside a thick and creamy hot chocolate. Hotel Chocolat has collided these two worlds into one with terrific results. Not sweet nor bitter, with a clear cherry flavour running throughout. If you get the chance to try this one, grab it with both hands.

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Score: 4.8


Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate Review

The cardboard box is largely identical to the Black Forest Gateau Drinking Chocolate carton, except for an orange colour scheme in place of the purple.

Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate Review
Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate

The rear of the box describes this flavour, mentioning that the maple draws in additional caramel notes to the "real toasted pecan", blended within a 50% milk chocolate base. Below this sits the ingredients and nutritional lists.

Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar, full cream milk powder, pecan nut paste (5%), flavourings, skimmed milk powder, emulsifier (soya lecithin). Cocoa solids: 50% minimum. Milk solids: 20% minimum.

  • 350g (ten sachets of 35g servings).
  • 30% sugars on average, (excluding the milk of your choice).
  • Recyclable box, but the sachets cannot easily be recycled at home (although they can be returned to Hotel Chocolat stores for recycling).
Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate Sachet
Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate Sachets

The aroma of the chocolate shards is nutty, with pecan most dominant. I picked up caramel notes as well as chestnut vibes in the sweet fragrance, with subtle cocoa undertones.

When made with dairy milk, the aroma developed into an almost cake-like perfume, bordering on an indulgent chocolate brownie, just not as rich.

The milk chocolate base together with the semi-skimmed milk I chose for those one created a delightfully creamy chocolate flavour, but it's the pecan and maple notes that stand at the forefront. Curiously, the combination reminded me of toasted chestnuts, and once I linked the two, there was no separating them. That's no bad thing though, as the result tastes wonderfully festive, and is the perfect antidote to cold, frosty nights.

Hotel Chocolat Maple & Pecan Drinking Chocolate Review

RRP: £13.50 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

Maple and pecan flavours combine in this milk chocolate to create a warming mug of festive hot chocolate, creating the illusion of toasted chestnuts for me. Grab your thick jacket and gloves and head outside to enjoy this warming hot chocolate at its best.

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Score: 4.8

Hotel Chocolat Vegan Selection Drinking Chocolate Box Review

This cardboard box is largely identical to the boxes above, opting for a golden colour scheme. The difference is inside, as this box contains 10 single-serve sachets spanning five flavours.

Hotel Chocolat Vegan Selection Drinking Chocolate Box Review
Hotel Chocolat Vegan Selection Drinking Chocolate Box

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted I needn't have picked up the large pouch of Nutmilk flakes above, and to you I say, you're right - but it's lucky I enjoyed it! I only realised when I got home, and it's not the end of the world.

The rear of the box lists the five flavours included in this compilation - classic 70%, Nutmilk, Mint, Chilli, and Dark 85% - along with the ingredients and nutritional lists.

Hotel Chocolat Vegan Selection Drinking Chocolate Box ingredients:
Cocoa solids (cocoa butter, cocoa mass), sugar, hazelnut flour (3%), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), flavorings, essential oil (peppermint), Habanero chilli powder. Cocoa solids: 70% (dark chocolate); 45% minimum (Nutmilk).

  • 350g (ten sachets of 35g servings).
  • 25.6% sugars on average, (excluding the milk of your choice - remember to use a plant-based milk to make a vegan hot chocolate).
  • Vegan friendly, but it is produced in a factory that handles dairy milk products.
  • Recyclable box, but the sachets cannot easily be recycled at home (although they can be returned to Hotel Chocolat stores for recycling).

I've already covered the 45% Nutmilk hot chocolate above, and it's a winner for me, with its subtle hazelnut flavour. But what about the others?

The 70% dark is branded the 'classic' choice, and strikes that fine balance between sweet and bitter. It serves up a dark, smokey and slightly sweet aroma in flaked form, which transforms into a dark, creamy, silky, rich and indulgent experience when made up with dairy milk. It can, of course, be blended with plant milk or even water should you crave a vegan hot chocolate - as can all the sachets in this box.

The chilli hot chocolate makes use of Habanero chilli against a backdrop of that same 70% dark base. It largely smells the same as its sister hot chocolate, both in powdered form and made up. But the chilli snakes to the back of your throat on the first sip, where it lingers with a warmth and tingle throughout. Each sip reignites the heat. It's not an inferno of heat, but it's more intense than I expected.

The antidote, perhaps, is the mint hot chocolate, which again utilises the same 70% dark base, but introduces refreshing Tasmanian peppermint to the party. The peppermint certainly steals the show here, with it dominating the aroma and flavour from start to finish, with a subtle dark chocolate perfume masked beneath it. I'd liken it to a richer After Eight minty experience.

The final sachet in this collection is the Dark 85% hot chocolate, famed for its "deep cacao flavours", so says Hotel Chocolat. This one will certainly divide opinion. It begins with a rich cocoa aroma with hints of fruit, smoke and molasses. Made up, the semi-skimmed milk helps to add a touch of creaminess to the party. Brace yourself though as this one is quite bitter to taste, and that's the point at which I think most people will either love it or hate it. Personally, I think it needs to be balanced with more dairy, so would consider blending in either whole milk or single cream (hot chocolate calories don't count, right?). While I drank the full mug, this one took longest to slide down, and I'd had enough a few sips into the experience.

Out of this box, I think the Nutmilk hot chocolate is my favourite, although I enjoyed the vibrancy of flavours of mint and chilli.

Hotel Chocolat Vegan Selection Drinking Chocolate Box Review

RRP: £13.50 | Hotel Chocolat | Shop now

Here we have 10 sachets of largely dark chocolate-based recipes, spanning five flavours and intensities. There's a pleasant mix between plain and flavoured hot chocolate, all of which can be made up with dairy milk or, if you seek an indulgent vegan hot chocolate, with plant-based milk or even hot water.

Packaging
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Score: 4.4

Where to Buy Online

You'll find the full current range of hot chocolate sachets and pouches on the Hotel Chocolat website here. You'll also find a small selection on Amazon here°. If you've got a Hotel Chocolat high street chocolate shop near you, then you'll find a good selection there as well.

The current range, based on the packaging above and products I spotted on the website, includes these hot chocolates and latte flavours:

  • Vanilla White 36%
  • Nutmilk 45%
  • Milky 50%
  • Classic 70%
  • 75% Colombia Sierra Nevada
  • Dark 85%
  • Dark 100%
  • Peanut Butter
  • Maple & Pecan
  • Salted Caramel & Clementine
  • Salted Caramel
  • Orange
  • Hazelnut Praline
  • Chilli
  • 70% Dark Mayan Chilli & Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Mint
  • Black Forest Gateau
  • Pumpkin Spice
  • Caffé Latte
  • Chocolate Latte
  • White Chocolate Latte
  • Hazelnut Latte
  • Caramel Latte
Found on eBay

What would your dream hot chocolate flavour be? Let me know in a comment below.

Disclosure: I purchased 1.5kg of assorted hot chocolate sachets across multiple transactions from Hotel Chocolat for £21.50. I was not asked for a review. My opinions are my own.

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