Although many people use the term "hot cocoa" interchangeably with "hot chocolate," there's a big difference between the two. Hot chocolate, or "drinking chocolate," is made from ground chocolate (which contains cocoa butter), which is mixed with hot milk to make the beverage. Our hot cocoa, however, is made with cocoa powder only (which contains no cocoa butter, and is thus very low in fat), along with nonfat dried milk, sugar and natural flavorings. Because of this, you can mix our hot cocoa mix with nothing but hot water and get a rich cocoa flavor with much less fat and calories than the typical hot chocolate.
Cocoa beans come from a pod grown in tropical climates, most commonly in Central America and West Africa. The ripe seed pods are split open and the beans are scooped out, then naturally fermented and dried. The fermentation is a key step to create the chocolate flavor we all love. The dried cocoa beans are then shipped to processing plants which roast and grind the beans to produce a thick paste called chocolate liquor, which has no alcohol.
Chocolate liquor is the key ingredient in solid chocolate and the precursor to cocoa powder and cocoa butter. If you take chocolate liquor, add sugar and some cocoa butter (and possibly other ingredients), and then mold and cool it you get solid chocolate. The ratio of the ingredients determines how dark or sweet the chocolate is. When you see a number that states a percentage of cocoa solids, it indicates what percent of the chocolate is comprised of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The rest is sugar and other ingredients.
The next major step to making cocoa powder is to put cocoa liquor under high pressure which expels the cocoa butter. This process leaves behind a dry dark cake which is then ground up into cocoa powder. Cocoa butter has almost all the original fat from the cocoa bean, while the cocoa powder has only a small amount of fat. Cocoa butter is used in many products including chocolate, body lotions and creams and it is the basis for white chocolate, which technically isn't chocolate since it has no cocoa powder. Cocoa powder is the dark, bitter and chocolate flavor that is used in baking, hot cocoa mixes, chocolates, truffles, etc. A common step is to process the cocoa powder with alkali (also called 'dutching' because it was invented in Holland) which lightens the color and flavor. The cocoa powder we use is Bensdorp Royal Dutch cocoa and it is one of the highest grades available on the market.
Hot chocolate and European drinking chocolate are made by taking solid chocolate and grinding it into a fine powder. Hot chocolate is meant to be made with hot milk which adds to its creaminess. Hot cocoa is made from cocoa powder, which has little fat, usually non-fat dry milk, sweeteners and other ingredients and is formulated to be made with hot water. So hot chocolate is often high in fat from the cocoa butter and the milk and calories. Our hot cocoa is low fat and has far fewer calories. Our cocoa tastes very smooth and creamy even while being very low in fat. When we do tastings at stores and shows, our customers are amazed when they hear our cocoa is 99% fat free and made with water.