1. Food
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.
Lindsey Goodwin

Hot Cocoa vs. Drinking Chocolate

By October 16, 2009

Follow me on:

Most people use the terms "hot chocolate" and "hot cocoa" interchangeably. They're both hot and chocolaty, so they're the same, right? Well, not exactly.

We've all tried classic hot cocoa. We can probably all agree that it's quick and easy to make, and that it's warming on cold winter days. We can probably also argue about whether or not it's better with mini-marshmallows, whipped cream or a candy cane. However, things get stickier than spilled cocoa as soon as we try to hash out what hot cocoa actually is and isn't.

Technically speaking, hot cocoa and hot chocolate are two very different beverages. Hot cocoa comes from a powder, while hot chocolate is (once again, technically speaking) what many call "drinking chocolate" or "sipping chocolate" - it's made from chopped bits of chocolate or small chocolate pellets that are melted (slowly and painstakingly) and then blended with milk, cream and/or or water. True hot chocolate tends to be much denser and richer than its powdery relative.

Interestingly enough, some Americans are repulsed by this more European beverage because it is so rich. However, I think this has more to do with American ideas of beverage sizes. Europeans tend to drink hot chocolate in small mugs or demitasse cups, while Americans are accustomed to over-sized mugs for their hot drinks. I, too, would be disgusted by the idea of drinking a huge mug of (basically) melted chocolate, but I find that drinking chocolate is a wonderfully satisfying winter drink when served in smaller quantities.

Drinking chocolate is increasingly available in American cities. (Within walking distance of my home in Portland, Oregon, there are three cafes that serve it... but Portland is known for its love of beverages.) If you have yet to try it or if you simply want to know how to make it at home, check out my guide to making drinking chocolate. Just remember when serving: smaller is better.

Photo (c) Lindsey Goodwin


November 9, 2009 at 5:38 am
(1) Milton says:

Here in Aussie, and for someone who has been selling coffee and chocolate drinks for over 2 years at markets and in a small cafe’, Cocoa for me is pure cocoa powder with no additives (sugar) and you add your own sugar to taste, and drinking chocolate is cocoa powder with upto 70% sugar already added. The new super rich european style is not to my taste and I have never been asked for it here. The ‘pure’ powders I use are already are very tasty and can been made richer if desired.

November 9, 2009 at 5:28 pm
(2) coffeetea says:

Thanks for sharing! It’s always fascinating to hear how beverage terminology varies around the world.

November 22, 2010 at 9:37 am
(3) HyeYoon says:

Thank you for sharind good information! I really like to drink hot cocoa in winter. From now on I will never confuse hot cocoa with drinking chocolate!

August 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm
(4) LOLZer says:

Oh come on!
The one is just trendier than the other! Pure marketing crap.
Just like pilchards (what drunkards like to down their vodka with – cheap and salty) vs anchovies (delicatessen little fish on pizza).

August 30, 2011 at 9:21 am
(5) coffeetea says:

Interesting claim, but have you actually tried real drinking chocolate? Aside from being chocolaty and hot, it doesn’t have much in common with hot cocoa. The texture, aroma and overall flavor are very different.

Also, the cheapness of cocoa has to do with its processing, as does the higher price point of real drinking chocolate. Is there hot cocoa incorrectly marketed as drinking chocolate? Absolutely. Am I feeding into that misconception and “marketing crap?” No.

February 28, 2012 at 3:04 pm
(6) Melina says:


1) hot cocoa, is much more pure drink , where you can add as much milk and sugar as you want… And it tastes great…, it’s easy , and fast.

2) As about Cadbury, Nesquik style prefabricated Chocolate drinks, there are many commercial brands of Hot chocolate drink powders ,
they often taste no better than a soapy water… And, to get a desirable chocolaty taste, you must put at least 3-4 teaspoons, a lots of milk ( again) , and at least 1 teaspoon of sugar…

3)… If you want a real chocolate drink, then you’ll have to do it yourself… Buy chocolate bricks… Cut a few squares… Melt them slowly…… Lose a lots of time… MIX it with hot full fat milk, drink a whole mug and then feel FAT… !!

April 1, 2012 at 10:41 pm
(7) Tim says:

“actually” Melinda is only partially correct. “cocoa” is not a PURE drink. It has Alkali’s added to it to make it more soluble and easier to mix. It’s an old technique invented by the Dutch and hence it is sometimes called Dutching. The alkali’s are an “additive”. It also has the cocoa butter mostly removed so some folks even resort to adding fats back in such as adding a pad of butter, yuk.

Another advantage of using the real chocolate is that you can choose the percent of chocolate that you prefer. If you use 65% or 70% or higher you minimize the sugar content and you won’t feel “fat”.

Also instead of melting the chocolate most chocolatiers will heat (very hot but not boiling) the milk and then pour that over chopped up chocolate. That results in a much smoother product and doesn’t risk scorching the chocolate and doesn’t take as much time. :-)


November 10, 2012 at 4:52 am
(8) virginia says:

Thanks to Melina and Tim. I will never buy already made drinking chocolate. I’d like to make it myself to taste the full bittersweet coco!

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.