by Marcey Barichello
We as people tend to use the terms “hot chocolate” and “hot cocoa” interchangeably; as a retailer of coffee, tea, and hot cocoa, I even catch myself making this mistake now and then. However, these two things are not the same; there is a big, big difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate is also known as “drinking chocolate” is made from chocolate that is ground (the chocolate contains cocoa butter). After the chocolate is ground, it is then mixed with hot milk to make the drink. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, we see it in those paper packets. The hot cocoa does not contain any cocoa butter, which means it has little fat compared to hot chocolate. The hot cocoa also has non-fat, dried milk, flavorings, and sugar. Due to all the things in the hot cocoa, you are able to mix it with water instead of milk and still have a delicious drink that has less fat and fewer calories than traditional hot chocolate.
Cocoa beans come from a plant that is grown in the tropics, mostly in Central America and Africa. The pods that contain the seeds are opened and taken out. However, these seeds do not have the chocolate flavor that we have come to know and love; the chocolate flavor that we are familiar with does not come until the fermentation process. The dried cocoa is then shipped to plants where it is processed, roasted, and ground, which produces a thick paste we called chocolate liquor. No, there is no alcohol in there. Sorry.
This chocolate liquor is a main ingredient in chocolate bars and other forms of solid chocolate. It is a parent for cocoa powder and cocoa butter. To get different shades of color for the chocolate and flavors of sweet and bitter, you simply adjust the ingredients (sugar, cocoa butter) with the chocolate liquor and there you go.
Later on in the process to get cocoa powder, the liquor is put in an oven under lots of pressure; this pressure will force the cocoa butter to be expelled and what is left behind is a cake like matter. This is then ground up and gives us what is we know as cocoa powder. We then add in the milk, sugar, and other things to get the hot cocoa powder.
There is a lot more detail that can be put into the description of the process to get cocoa powder, it is an interesting and very scientific process. However, we are more into consuming the cocoa.