So who decided that drinking a big cup of caffeinated chocolate just before bed, was the thing to send you off to sleep? Who knows, but many people do. It’s also one of the most popular drinks to have in restaurants (London in particular seems to have a race on for who can make the most luxury versions, you won’t have a problem finding one). Most brands of hot chocolate contain factory-farmed milk and refined sugar and are a faff to make (mix cold milk first to make a gummy mix, then heat rest of milk etc). Try this hot chocolate from The Vegan 8.
Keep hot chocolate away from pets due to toxic ingredients (not just chocolate, but also coffee, nutmeg etc). Never use the sweetener xylitol near pets, as a few dropped crumbs are lethal.
According to Calm Cocoa (a company that makes quality hot chocolate), most brands are just ‘sugar with a bit of cocoa powder thrown in’. Ideally, you want shaved chocolate with a natural sweetener like coconut. A former London chocolate tour guide, her mixes include Salted Madagascar, Gingery Jamaica and Spicy Dark Ecuador.
Up to the late 1800s, hot chocolate was actually used as medicine by doctors. It came to us via the Mayans of Mexico, and has been around ever since. It’s also very popular in Italy (when the Catholics used to fast, one Pope said it was still fine to have drinking chocolate!)
What’s interesting is the story of George Cadbury, who created the little ‘perfect town’ of Bourneville, just outside the city of Birmingham. It was in the news recently, when the town won their case against Tesco, to prevent alcohol being served at a new Tesco Express (not to being teetotal, but because they were worried about broken glass litter). It went to court, and the town won – because George had wrapped all the deeds up in knots, 100 years ago!
So why is it a ‘dry town?’ Because Mr Cadbury (who would likely be appalled at what his company has become now) was a strict teetotal Quaker. He was like Katherine Hepburn in ‘The African Queen’ when she throws away all of Humphrey Bogart’s gin. Worried that his workers/residents (who he gave nice homes with good jobs and green space to relax in) would drink gin after work, he had to think up an alternative, so our first drinking chocolate was born. The fact that Bourneville drinking chocolate now contains palm oil likely would not sit well with Mr Cadbury, who was a pioneer for social justice. He donated a park and hospital to his city, and campaigned against war and sweatshop labour, and for better old age pensions.
Make Your Own Hot Chocolate
This homemade hot chocolate mix (Full of Plants) is far nicer than the storebought versions, and easier to make too. Once made, just mix 1/4 cup with a heated cup of plant milk, for a creamy warming treat. All you need are 6 ingredients: cacao powder and dark chocolate, cornstarch and vanilla powder, coconut sugar and salt.
Always buy Fair Trade chocolate and cacao powder, as farmers are often in the poorest countries on earth, and endlessly exploited. Some have even been found to be paid so little, they are technically working in slavery-like conditions. Paying a few extra pence for a bar of Fair Trade chocolate makes all the difference to their quality of life.
Frozen Mexican Hot Chocolate (Gourmande in the Kitchen) is richer than chocolate milk, but icy cold rather than a hot chocolate. Not quite as rich as milkshake, but very refreshing on a hot day.
One-Pan Vegan Hot Chocolate (Shane & Simple) is a simple 4-ingredient recipe. All you need is plant milk, cocoa powder, maple syrup and vanilla extract.
Better Brands of Hot Chocolate
These brands are far simpler and more ethical, plus you can find some recipes to make your own hot chocolate and hot chocolate mix. Where there is plastic inner wrapping, you can recycle this at supermarket bins.
Boycott hot chocolates from vending machines that are made with factory-farmed ingredients and sold in single-use paper cups. This is what’s wrong with the drinks industry. It’s the only way to change things.
- Pump Street Chocolate is made by hand on Suffolk’s Heritage Coast, the chocolate is shaved into perfect flakes, to melt into warm milk. Choose from Ecuador (toffee, toasted walnut, cocoa), Jamaica (toasted grain, dried fruit, rum) or St Vincent (pear, caramel, creamy sherry).
- Lucocoa Hot Chocolate is sold in a glass jar with metal lid. It contains 60% Haiti hot chocolate, and a beautifully balanced combination of figs, cherry, caramel and roasted nuts. Just mix with oat milk for the perfect hot chocolate. Contains lucuma powder (a superfood that tastes like maple shortbread). Shelf life of 18 months.
- Enjoy Drinking Chocolate is made with organic raw cacao powder and coconut sugar. Just add 2 tablespoons of powder to warm milk, and whisk until completely dissolved. Also good with cold milk.
Nomad Drinking Chocolate is made with organic cocoa from the Dominican Republic, organic beetroot and exotic spices. This rose-beauty has a subtle earthy sweetness and mellow hint of spice. Enjoy heated or chilled in your choice of milk, or in coconut water for a refreshing drink. Organic and gluten-free. Just heat 1/4 of the milk, stir in the chocolate, then slowly add the rest of the milk until hot. Best with coconut, rice or almond milk. Also good in desserts, mochas and on ice cream. Iced Chocolate is made with chocolate syrup and plant milk, with ice cubes and a scoop of vegan vanilla-ice cream.
Make Your Own (vegan) Marshmallows
Marshmallows are a very popular snack, either to eat toasted by the campfire, served on hot chocolate or made into the American snack S’mores. But conventional ones are not just packed in plastic, but most are made with gelatine (animal bones). So why not make your own?
Marshmallows are quite ‘gummy’ so best avoided for children or people with swallowing difficulties, to avoid choking hazards (for the same reason, keep away from pets). Try these vegan marshmallows (Addicted to Dates), made with an Italian eggless meringue.
These Cherry Marshmallows (Project Vegan Baking) use a pretty red fruit puree. Who says marshmallows always have to be white?
Where to Buy Good Vegan Marshmallows
These S’mores Brownies (Crowded Kitchen) are made with toasted marshmallows. You can now buy vegan marshmallows in zero waste packaging, although not always with wholesome ingredients. Buy from:
Most brands are made with glucose syrup. Dandies Vegan Marshmallows are one of the few brands made with wholesome ingredients. However, they are packed in plastic, so recycle any packaging at supermarket bag bins, most take all kinds of packaging these days.
Who enjoys faffing around with commercial hot chocolate mix? First you have to mix a little into a cold gummy mix, then add hot milk and it all separates. And most brands are not very ethical. Make this homemade hot chocolate mix instead (Minimalist Baker). Only needing 3 ingredients: coconut milk powder, cocoa powder and coconut sugar, you can in optional cinnamon.
To make, just add what you want to a glass jar or mug, boil the kettle and pour in. Top with grated chocolate and coconut whip if wished (just chill a can of coconut milk overnight, pour off the water to use in smoothies and whizz up with a little sugar for your own thick ‘whipped cream’. If you use marshmallows to top your hot choccy, check for ingredients (most contain beef fat).