I told my boys (ages 6 & 9) on Tuesday not to invite anyone home after school. I would be conducting “the great organic hot cocoa experiment,” and I needed their help. When you’re taste testing something like hot cocoa, you really do need the opinions of both kids and grown-ups. So I invited my mom to take part in the taste testing, too. Really, what kind of a daughter would I be if I didn’t invite her to my hot cocoa taste testing?

I chose three hot cocoa mixes and one cocoa powder to test. Here are the contestants:

Ah!Laska Organic Cocoa ($5.99 for 12 oz.) – This is the brand I’ve been serving to my boys for about a year now.

Dagoba Organic Authentic Hot Chocolate ($7.99 for 12 oz.) – This fair trade mix shares its name with the swampy planet where Yoda teaches Luke in Star Wars, a fact my boys were quick to point out. (Totally irrelevant, I know, but it piqued my boys’ interest in trying it.)

Wild Harvest Organic Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix ($2.39 for 10 oz.) – Wild Harvest is the brand of organics that our local Acme store carries throughout its isles.

Green & Black’s Organic Cocoa Powder – ($4.69 for 4.4 oz.) We had to add our own sugar to this cocoa powder that can be used for hot cocoa or for baking. Like the Dagoba, it’s fair trade.

We tried the Wild Harvest first. It comes in a box with individual pouches, much like the traditional hot chocolate mixes we’re used to.

Ingredients: organic dehydrated cane juice solids, organic whey, organic nonfat dry milk, organic cocoa (processed with alkali), sea salt, calcium carbonate, natural vanilla flavor, xanthum gum.

The directions for Wild Harvest say to mix it with water, but we decided to try it mixed with water in one cup and mixed with milk in another. Making it with milk was a mistake – it tasted awful. Made with water, this brand got mixed reviews. My boys thought it was really good. My mom and I both thought it tasted much more like sugar and had trouble finding the chocolate taste in it. I wouldn’t want to drink it again.

One thing to note, the Wild Harvest is the only one that has added salt to the tune of 140 mg of sodium per serving.

Next, we tried the Dagoba with its very specific instructions. Heat the milk on the stove top, stirring it clockwise 11 times then counterclockwise the next 11, repeating until vapors rise.

Ingredients: organic evaporated cane juice, organic cacao powder, organic unsweetened chocolate, and of course, love. (That’s really what it says on the can.)

This was much more chocolaty and much less sweet than the Wild Harvest. In fact, my 6-year-old son spit it out in the sink. When you’re six, and you’re expecting sweet and you don’t get it, sometimes you’re insulted. My 9 year old wasn’t too crazy about it either. I found it difficult to dissolve all of the mix, and there were small pieces floating in our cups when I poured it.

I thought it was good, but thought it needed a little sweetening up so I took the advice on the canister: cordials may be added to taste to create a wonderful after dinner drink. Out came the Bailey’s Irish Cream. This was perfect. If I had added the Bailey’s to a sweeter hot chocolate, it would have been too much, but the rich cocoa and sweet liquor combined to create something very yummy. I would like to try this with butterscotch schnapps, too.

Next up came our regular Ah!Laska. I already know that my boys like it, but I thought it would be interesting to test it against the others.

Ingredients: organic evaporated cane sugar, organic cocoa, organic rice syrup solids, organic vanilla powder, less than 1% carrageenan and xanthan gum.

The boys said it was good, but I already knew that. My mom said she liked it more than the Wild Harvest, but it was still too sweet for her tastes. I think it’s pretty good, but a bit sweeter than I would like. I’d like a little richer chocolate taste. It’s definitely geared for kid tastes – there’s a cartoon bear on the canister.

Finally, we gave the Green & Black’s a taste. My 9 year old had had enough by then and bailed out on the experiment. My 6 year old was still in but very skeptical since he had tasted the powder with his finger and found it extremely bitter. I added two tsp. of sugar to the pan of milk and cocoa powder, and that sweetened it up plenty for him, perhaps a little too much for me and my mom, but that can easily be adjusted.

Ingredients: 100% Fair Trade Certified Organic Cocoa Powder (processed with alkali)

The Green & Black’s was very good. My favorite of the bunch. I would definitely enjoy a warm cup of this when I needed to take the chill off. My 6 year old thought it was just okay, and my mom was very impressed.

So what’s my advice when all is said and done?

Best for every day, especially if your kids drink a lot of it: Ah!Laska. It’s pretty good and the price is right. It has the sweetness that the kids like, but not too sweet that it turns off the grown-ups.

Best for those who want a hot cocoa that actually tastes like chocolate: Green & Black’s. It’s a bit expensive so even though I could adjust the sweetness to my boys’ tastes, this wouldn’t be the hot chocolate I give them regularly. But for a once in a while, treat, I’d pull this out. And, I’d really like to try baking with it.

Best to add a little somethin’ in it – Dagoba’s lack of sweetness makes it perfect for adding some sweet liquor. Great for after dinner or for when you need a little extra warming up.

Not for grown-ups or those who like hot chocolate to taste like chocolate: Wild Harvest. My boys would happily drink it if I gave it to them, but I think I’d like to try to help them develop a taste for better foods, so I’m not sure if I’d buy it again for them.

MNN homepage tease photo: techmeister


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Taste testing organic hot cocoas
Two adults and two kids taste test a variety of organic hot cocoas. Find out which is the best.