With pumpkin spice everything taking over life, it’s only fair that winter get its own flavor. Buzz60’s Angeli Kakade has the story.
This holiday season, our favorite cold-weather drink has taken on some rather untraditional forms. Hot cocoa, usually enjoyed from your favorite cozy mug and topped with marshmallows, is being marketed as a flavor, not just a beverage. In the past month alone, Hershey’s introduced Hot Cocoa Kisses, Mars revealed Hot Cocoa M&Ms, DOVE debuted Hot Cocoa Milk Chocolate Promises, Dairy Queen brought back its wholly over-the-top Oreo Hot Cocoa Blizzard, and Pillsbury re-released its limited edition Hot Cocoa Rolls.
The rise of these hot cocoa-flavored products has prompted some serious questions. What is this newfound flavor? Like, is it not…just chocolate? And is it replacing pumpkin spice—gasp—as the new “It” food trend?
According to Google Trends (the search engine’s way of tracking what people are looking up online), the answer is: maybe, sorta, kinda. Since 2004, when PSLs were released, the country’s fascination with pumpkin spice has spiked during the holiday season and continued to skyrocket year over year. Searches for hot cocoa are definitely on the rise (we compared them to pumpkin spice in the graph, below), but the flavor hasn’t quite reached pumpkin spice-level interest. Yet.
The first thing you should know is that there is a difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa. We’re seeing a trend in hot cocoa-flavored foods, not hot chocolate ones. The latter is made with shaved or ground chocolate combined with hot milk or water, so it’s often less sweet. Hot cocoa, conversely, is made from cocoa powder (cacao solids separated from cocoa butter, which removes the fat) mixed with sugar and powdered milk.
Of course, the terms “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” are often mistakenly used interchangeably. General rule of thumb: If you’re craving something more bitter and rich, go for hot chocolate, because it has a higher fat content. If you want a lighter and sweeter drink, hot cocoa is a better bet, because it tends to come out a thinner liquid.