The Good: Does not taste bad, Easy to prepare
The Bad: Very expensive in this form, Environmental impact of packaging, Not overly vanilla
The Basics: Any sense of French Vanilla is sublimated to the chocolate in Land O' Lakes' French Vanilla & Chocolate Hot Cocoa.
They can't all be winners. The truth is that ever company that makes a lot of different things - or a lot of variations on one thing - ends up with a dud from time to time. In the case of Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics, the first complete dud I have yet tried is their French Vanilla & Chocolate Hot Cocoa. Unlike their other cocoas, this does not even have a real hint of the promised flavor and the chocolate flavor that is embodied in it is so muted as to be almost unrecognizable.
Combined with the lack of environmentalism of the packaging, that sinks this beverage. It is not unpleasant to drink; it simply does not taste like either of the flavors it promises, ultimately disappointing the consumer.
The French Vanilla & 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 of approximately three for two dollars. For a single mug of cocoa, this is expensive when compared to other make-at-home products, but about on par with getting a cocoa at a place like Dunkin' Donuts.
Ease Of Preparation
The Cocoa Classics French Vanilla & Chocolate hot cocoa mix is ridiculously simple to make. Having been given a packet last week for my anniversary, it is evident that this has a decent shelf life, as the expiration date recommended using the packets (I had two) before April 6, 2013. 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 purple-brown color to it and will be uniformly smooth and creamy.
The aroma from the French Vanilla & Chocolate hot cocoa is actually strangely indistinct. It smells slightly of chocolate, but this has a strangely chemical smell to it that none of the other Land O' Lakes cocoas have had. Both mugs I tried had a slightly understated but sharp scent to it, that was not at all like vanilla, but not the chocolate flavor, either.
Sadly, this prepares the consumer for the taste of Land O' Lakes French Vanilla & Chocolate hot cocoa. The flavor is subtly chocolate with a creamy overtaste. It's like having a waxy chocolate with a milk chocolate center; the tongue gets coated with a bland, flavorless texture and that mutes the primary flavor. It is not truly a vanilla flavor, though. Instead, this is a chocolate that tastes more milky or diluted, making it just taste like weaker hot cocoa than anything truly French Vanilla.
Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics are hot cocoa mix and therefore not the most nutritious things in the known world, though the French Vanilla & 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 French Vanilla & 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 vanilla or French Vanilla flavoring in the ingredient list, so it is little surprise that it is so un-French Vanilla flavored.
What is not a mystery is how high this product is in sugars. In each cup of French Vanilla & Chocolate Cocoa Classics, there are 140 calories, twenty-five of which are from fat. There are 2.5 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.
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 French Vanilla & Chocolate Cocoa Classic powder in its packet, it ought to stay usable. Given that it has an expiration date almost two years away, 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 as well. 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.
Land O' Lakes Cocoa Classics are expensive for what one gets and the French Vanilla & Chocolate is a very average taste experience for that inflated price. That makes it remarkably easy to not recommend and it's a surprise to me that it was so far from the mark.
For other Land O' Lakes hot chocolate drinks, please visit my reviews of:
Raspberry And Chocolate Cocoa
Mint And Chocolate Cocoa
Land O'Lakes Chocolate Supreme
Land O' Lakes Chocolate & Caramel Cocoa
For other food or drink reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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