The Good: Great taste and aroma, Nothing truly bad in it!
The Bad: Very expensive in this form, Environmental impact of packaging
The Basics: Quite truly caramel flavored, down to the dry aftertaste of caramel, Caramel & Chocolate is a great hot cocoa mix.
As we enter winter, I find my beverage pleasures turning more from my usual teas to hot chocolate beverages. Hot cocoa has always been a comfort food for me and my wife seems to have picked up on that rather quickly. Frequently, when we go to the store to do our regular shopping, she will surprise me with a new brick of cheese or a box of cocoa that I have not yet tried. This week, it was the Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Caramel & Chocolate.
My wife has been smarting in the cocoa selection department since I did not recommend the Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Raspberry & Chocolate she purchased for me. So, when she surprised me with the Caramel & Chocolate hot cocoa, she did so with a defiant expression, as if daring me to not recommend this. Fortunately, I am not able to rise to her taunting; the Caramel & Chocolate hot coca is absolutely delicious.
The Caramel & Chocolate hot cocoa mix is part of the Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics premium hot cocoa line. The mix comes in a 1 1/4 oz. sealed foil package and is a pretty delicious mix. Each 1 1/4 oz. packet is a single serving and these bear a relatively high price tag virtually everywhere I have found them. They tend to run approximately three for two dollars. For a single mug of cocoa, this is expensive when compared to other make-at-home products, but the Caramel & Chocolate is about good enough to be worth it!
Ease Of Preparation
The Cocoa Classics Caramel & Chocolate hot cocoa mix is ridiculously simple to make. The cocoa is rather enduring and the new packet I just received did not even have an expiration date. Because it is sealed and has some artificial preservatives in is, this is likely to last virtually forever unopened. A single serving is the packet and six oz. of water. There is no measuring of the product involved!
As a result, preparation is ridiculously simple. The top of the envelope has a perforated edge and one need simply tear open the top, which is quite easy, and pour the contents of the packet into a mug that is at least eight ounces large. Then, simply pour hot water - near boiling, but not actually boiling as boiling water cooks the ingredients as opposed to simply dissolving them - over the powder and stir. Stir the powder until there are no blobs of chocolate powder visible in the water or giving resistance from the bottom. The beverage will have a light brown color to it and will be uniformly smooth and creamy.
Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Caramel & Chocolate hot cocoa is an excellent idea and this is one that is executed remarkably well. First, when the beverage is properly prepared and hot, the steam bears an amazing sweet caramel scent that is dead-on. The cocoa smells a little chocolatey in addition to the caramel scent, but the caramel is dominant.
What the scent lacks in chocolate, it makes up for in the taste. The taste is a beautiful blend of chocolate and caramel. It opens with the taste that is very much the typical milk chocolate flavor of a hot cocoa. Just as one is prepared to be disappointed by how the drink smells delicious and of caramel, but does not taste like it, the dry taste of caramel hits the tastebuds. The sweetness of the cocoa overwhelms the tastebuds and what works so well about the Caramel & Chocolate cocoa is that it is not milky; the flavor is rich and chocolatey with a strong undertone of the caramel the name promises.
In addition to having a subtle taste, the cocoa has a very dry aftertaste to it that is distinctive to caramel. This is just as a premium cocoa ought to be in that it tastes exactly like what it claims to, though it is more biased toward the caramel flavor as opposed to the chocolate one.
Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics is a hot cocoa mix and therefore not the most nutritious things ever, though the Caramel & Chocolate flavor could be far less nutritious than it is. While I am used to reviewing things like all natural teas where the ingredients are all easily pronounceable and recognizable, the Caramel & Chocolate hot cocoa has a few ingredients that cannot be easily identified. The primary ingredients are sugar, nonfat dry milk and whey. It is not vegan compliant as a result. Ironically, there is nothing even resembling caramel or caramel flavoring in the ingredient list, so it is surprising that it is so perfectly caramel flavored.
What is not a mystery is how high this product is in sugars. In each cup of Caramel & Chocolate Cocoa Classics, there are 140 calories, thirty of which are from fat. There are three grams of saturated fat, so while one might be tempted to curl up and enjoy this while resting, they are likely to pay for it later on! While there is no cholesterol, a consumer gets 11% of their recommended daily allowance of salt out of a single packet of this beverage! There is a little protein, but not enough to live off this. In other words, this product is not a nutritious food product. But it is good!
This product contains soy and milk and because there are no notations on it, one must assume it is not Kosher or gluten-free.
So long as one leaves the Caramel & Chocolate Cocoa Classic powder in its packet, it ought to stay usable. One assumes it will last quite a while and dissolve appropriately when one attempts to use it. The packets, for those of us who consider the environmental impact of such things, are terribly wasteful and expensive. The foil/plastic wrappers are not recyclable anywhere I've been.
Cleanup is very easy. If the product spills while dumping it into the mug, simply wipe it up or brush it up with a dry or damp cloth. If it has already been reconstituted with water into hot cocoa, simply wipe it up. Light fabrics are likely to stain if this gets on them, in which case consult your fabric care guide to clean it up.
The Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics Caramel & Chocolate is absolutely delicious, but it is stifling in its price by the single packet. This is best as an occasional treat as opposed to a regular cocoa beverage.
For other hot cocoa reviews, please check out:
Land O' Lakes Chocolate & Mint Cocoa
Nestles Caramel Hot Cocoa
Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows
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© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.