Penne for Your Thoughts: A hot take on hot chocolate


I love sweet things, especially all things chocolate. As a result, I have developed a slightly absurd obsession with hot chocolate and have consumed a lot of the beverage, and I have high standards on what makes a good hot chocolate. However, my hot chocolate naughty and nice list currently can only be found in my head, so I think it’s time I shout it into the oblivion as well. 

Like many others at the College of William and Mary, I have taken Research Methods, so I know that any decent analysis must clearly describe their criteria to establish credibility. I will judge on cost, taste and flexibility. Cost is self-explanatory, but for reference all prices will come from what is listed on Taste will be pretty subjective — personally I am not a huge dark chocolate fan, so I prefer a rich milk chocolate flavor for hot chocolate. I will be judging the taste based on the mix being prepared with milk. Flexibility is the variable that will need the most explaining: I am technically (definitely) lactose intolerant, so sometimes for the sake of my sanity and stomach, I will do the unspeakable and make hot chocolate with water. Since I have to commit such a heinous act for my health, it’s very important to me that a hot chocolate mix be consistent in taste and texture regardless of the liquid it is prepared with. My list will focus on three hot chocolate mixes: Swiss Miss, Starbucks and Ghirardelli. 

Swiss Miss Milk Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix — 8 count 

Overall: 7/10. Swiss Miss hot chocolate is easily the most popular grocery store hot chocolate mix. Very classic and nostalgic; it instantly reminds me of the pre-Christmas streaming of Polar Express in elementary school, so it automatically gets a couple brownie points. 

Cost: 10/10. Swiss Miss comes in at $2.19 for an eight pack or $0.27 per pack. Out of all the mixes being judged, Swiss Miss gives you the biggest bang for your buck price-wise.

Taste: 9/10. As mentioned above, Swiss Miss is a simple, dependable hot chocolate. Personally, I really enjoy the smooth texture, and the flavor is very nice and not too rich. 

Flexibility: 5/10. Legally, you can make Swiss Miss with water. Morally, you should not make Swiss Miss with water. The times I have had to resort to making Swiss Miss with water have been dark days. If your mornings go like mine, you’ll make your coffee, tea or hot chocolate 10 or so minutes before you head out the door so that it is drinkable on your walk or drive to your destination. Without fail, the hot chocolate separates into murky water at the top and thick chocolate syrup at the bottom during these ten minutes. While it’s only a minor inconvenience to stir it back up, it’s still disappointing. 

Starbucks Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Mix — Eight count

Overall: -3/10. This may be a hot take, but I absolutely hate Starbucks hot chocolate.

Cost: 4/10. Starbucks comes in at $7.49 for an eight pack or $0.94 per pack. Honestly, the price probably is not too bad if compared to the price of buying a hot chocolate at an actual Starbucks location, but I simply think it tastes so bad that it deserves a bad cost ranking.

Taste: 0/10. As mentioned earlier, I do not like Starbucks hot chocolate. It does nothing for me with its very chalky taste and utter lack of sweetness.  Deep down inside, I only wanted to write this article as a hate letter to Starbucks for their hot chocolate, because, seriously, why is it so bad? What did society do to deserve such a mediocre hot chocolate from one of the largest hot drink sellers in the world? Trust me, I have given Starbucks hot chocolate several chances, but each and every time I have felt cheated and deprived of the joy of my favorite drink.

Flexibility: 8/10. I may be a hater, but I will be an honest hater: the one time I made Starbucks hot chocolate with water instead of milk, it held up very well. I still do not like it though. 

Ghirardelli Rich Chocolate Instant Cocoa — Eight count

Overall: 9/10. The Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix is an underrated gem on the hot chocolate aisle. It is not a hot chocolate I think I could have everyday, but it is a true pleasure. 

Cost: 6/10. Ghirardelli comes in at $6.49 for an eight pack or $0.81 per pack. On the pricier side for hot chocolate mixes but definitely worth it. 

Taste: 9/10. A rich, creamy, delightful taste of chocolate with the bonus treat of little chocolate chips in the drink! Nobody in the game (to my knowledge) is doing hot chocolate mix like Ghirardelli is, a very luxurious experience. 

Flexibility: 10/10. Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix is a superstar in terms of flexibility. Incredibly consistent whether it’s milk or water. 

In all, among the three grocery store hot chocolate giants, Swiss Miss is the clear choice if you are looking for an everyday hot chocolate. Swiss Miss delivers great taste at a very affordable cost if you are willing to overlook the flexibility issue. If you are looking to splurge for a self-care night, I highly recommend Ghirardelli’s hot chocolate mix. A tad bit pricey, but very worth it for the taste and flavor.


  1. I agree you can’t go wrong with Swiss Miss! I have never tried the Ghirardelli but you better believe I am going to now!

    I encourage you to try the Land O Lakes – nice variety of flavors, my grocery store sells them as single pouches for around $1 to $1.50. A splurge for sure, but IMO totally worth it in the name of research. 😊

    Thank you for this article, it was fun to read and brought a smile to my face. And I literally read it while sipping a nice warm mug of Swiss Miss Rich Chocolate.


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