Hot Cocoa vs. Hot Chocolate

Infographic created by Joyce Zhuang on piktochart
Infographic created by Joyce Zhuang on piktochart

When December rolls around, the crispness of fall has disappeared and bitter cold starts to creep in. Our homes turn into lovely havens of warmth with burning fireplaces and…hot chocolate! Or hot cocoa. Is there really a difference? Let’s find out…

Believe it or not, there is a big difference between these two terms. Although they may be used interchangeably, it’s best to know which term to use instead of getting confused.

Hot chocolate is made with hot milk or water with bits of melted chocolate added in. It has a rich, creamy, and very thick–sometimes almost spoon-able–consistency. We mostly familiarize ourselves with hot chocolate and marshmallows, which is a sweet beverage that is often enjoyed in the winter. Because hot chocolate is made with real chocolate, the fat in chocolate limits the chocolate taste in the beverage. However, the rich mouth-feel and creamy sweetness makes hot chocolate an American-favored treat. Believe it or not, some companies actually produce hot cocoa but label it as hot chocolate because it sounds better. Well then, what is hot cocoa?

Hot cocoa is made from hot milk or water mixed with cocoa. Cocoa is different than chocolate since cocoa has more of a chocolate taste. Chocolate is mostly made up of two things–cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Cocoa solids are where the chocolaty taste comes from, while cocoa butter is where the rich texture comes from. Cocoa itself has more cocoa solids and less cocoa butter, making it less rich but containing a more chocolaty taste.

Hot cocoa and hot chocolate are very similar but also very different. Once made, the two drinks can be added to, resulting in a very flavorful cup. Many people like to add whipped cream, marshmallows, bits of chocolate, cinnamon, and other spices to their hot beverage.

Both hot cocoa and hot chocolate are American favorites for wintertime beverages. Now that you know the difference between the two, you can make your own. There are recipes for both in the infographic above. Enjoy your delicious hot, and savory beverage!