Winter is upon us, and that means stews, snow cones, and hot cocoa, occasionally as separate parts of the same meal. Here at the Shameless Consumer laboratories, we are constantly on the search for the perfect hot cocoa. The right price, the right flavor, the right blend of chocolate, and well mostly the right price.
This is how I came across our latest topic of interest: Land O Lakes Cocoa Classics. At two for a dollar, I couldn’t help but grab four flavors for today’s review: Chocolate Supreme, Raspberry & Chocolate, Irish Creme, and Arctic White. The selection was not random and purposefully included one classic and one abomination of nature.
First, some history.
The first hot chocolate was invented over six hundred years ago thanks to a French connoisseur by the name of Haut-Choco The Great. Story has it that Haut was a prolific gambler, with a particular fondness for poker. “Poker?” he would say, “I barely know her!” On his way to a game with his friends at the local Denny’s, Haut realized that he had drank all of the wine reserved for social occassions.
Unwilling to reach into his personal stocks, as wine was not a commonly produced beverage in France and therefore was rather difficult to find, Haut found himself desperate for choices. In a rush, he grabbed the large brick of chocolate normally used for exterminating house mice and melted it into a fluid. As a further sign of his cheapness, Haut diluted the chocolate liquid with milk.
The drink was an unexpected hit, and his friends named the beverage after his newly appointed nickname: Haut-Choco the Late. Alcohol mixed with a poor understanding of the English language led to the name Hot Chocolate, by an Englishman’s son who “wasn’t the strongest cog in the clock” according to his disappointed father.
While his invention would live on to this day, Haut was savagely beaten to death later that year for crimes against the church, who deemed his beverage to be a celebration of Satanic culture.
His beating is also memorialized with certain chocolate dishes also known as “devil’s food,” as well as those little marshmallows referencing Haut getting his teeth knocked out by the local bishop’s shoe.
But enough history for today, let’s talk about the product.
1. Chocolate Supreme
I started with the chocolate supreme since it is the vanilla of hot cocoa, as in it is so basic that it sets the tone for its derivatives and will tell us whether or not death is a preferable alternative to progressing any further.
The chocolate supreme is bad, very bad. In fact it doesn’t taste like much like hot cocoa at all, more like a cup of hot, unsalted margarine. It takes a few mouthfuls for your brain to realize that there’s chocolate in here, but before that it tastes like boiling butter.
The ingredients explain why. There is sugar, nonfat dry milk, and cocoa, and then you read on and find coconut oil, corn syrup solids, soybean oil, salt, and basically the key ingredients in margarine. In fact, I looked up the Land O Lakes margarine and aside from about four differences, the ingredients are identical. This drink is so oily that the United States is bound to go to war over it.
It’s always a good bad sign when one quarter of the way through the review, I’m already feeling sick.
Verdict: 1/5. If you’ve ever wanted a chocolate margarine for your corn on the cob, this is exactly what you need.
2. Raspberry & Chocolate
I’m a little less disturbed by the fact that this is the exact same color as the chocolate supreme than the fact that it smells like rancid raspberries. They didn’t even bother with the natural flavors on this one, given raspberries are expensive and all, and the end result is that it tastes like the chocolate supreme, about six months after it spoiled.
As a chocolate expert, meaning I have a blog and eat chocolate, raspberry chocolate is fantastic when you use real raspberries. In this concoction, Land O Lakes went with the fake raspberry flavoring, and it is eerily reminiscent of the stuff they put in raspberry cough drops to give it an even more bitter aftertaste.
The end result is a hot cocoa that tastes like buttery chocolate medicine. The tartness of the fake raspberry mixing with the bitter afterglow of the salt, plus the oily oil of the coconut and soybean oils and corn syrups.
Verdict: .5/5. The only thing this hot cocoa cures is my appetite, my love of hot cocoa, and any remaining will to continue this review.
3. Irish Creme & Chocolate
By this point I should note that I haven’t been able to drink more than half of these six ounce cups.
The Irish Cream is, in respect to the other three, the best in the group. It actually tastes like Irish Creme, and the oily buttery flavor isn’t as pronounced as the chocolate supreme and raspberry.
I have a strong predilection for Irish Creme in just about everything, so while my opinion on this one might be biased, it doesn’t change that I am objectively correct about everything. This hot cocoa would go well with a biscotti or some kind of cookie with chocolate chips, or spiked with some level of alcohol.
Verdict: 2.5/5. Actually decent.
As far as humor goes, I have nothing for this section. Honestly, the idea that one of these is palatable is filling me with too much hope, a bad idea considering that number four is:
4. White Arctic Paradox
White chocolate is a product that is not chocolate at all, and it also isn’t a hot cocoa. This product really doesn’t make much sense because the concept of white chocolate hot cocoa is physically impossible.
You see, the difference between hot cocoa and hot chocolate is that hot cocoa doesn’t have cocoa butter. White chocolate is comprised primarily of cocoa butter and not really any cocoa. It’s a bit like trying to sell a vegan beef jerky that is made out of the grass that cows would have eaten, but the cows don’t exist because we’re talking about a vegan farm.
If Land O Lakes hot cocoa was a band, White Arctic would be the only member left alive after the other three had died of drugs, food, and a widow with no singing talent. White Arctic is so unassuming in its presentation and flavor that I almost forgot it existed.
This drink tastes like a vanilla milkshake that someone watered down and then microwaved. It’s thick, it doesn’t really have any flavor to it, and it also doesn’t have much of an aroma. I’d like to say more bad things about it, but it’s hard to make fun of something that just sits there and minds its own business, and if this drink was human I can only assume that it would apologize for its perceived transgressions.
Verdict: 2.5/5. Surprising considering I normally hate white chocolate.
Ultimately I can’t give any of these hot cocoas a pass, even though the Irish Creme is the best of the four. I won’t be reviewing any more Land O Lakes hot cocoas because they barely qualify as edible, let alone palatable. The only thing classic about this cocoa is that the Aztec drink that started it all was probably just as disgusting.
As I usually suggest, go for Ovaltine or Nesquick if you want a hot chocolate. Ovaltine is a healthier option and they contain a fair amount of vitamins. Buy it in bulk now before chocolate becomes prohibitively expensive.