Whether you’re sipping it from a flask on-the-go or enjoying it topped with marshmallows and squirty cream at home, there’s no denying hot chocolate is a winter warmer – and a must-have for yet another lockdown.
Warming, sweet and often luxurious, hot chocolate offers that extra bit of comfort we could all do with right now.
Typically, hot chocolate comes in powdered or flake form, with this being mixed into milk or hot milk or water. To test the chocolates, we followed the heating instructions on each product but used hot milk as the mixer as opposed to hot water.
Equally, you could use dairy-free milk such as oat or rice to make a vegan drink (check the labelling of the products first to make sure they’re vegan).
Hot chocolate comes in all shapes, sizes and flavours and we tested all manner of hot chocolates in search for the best, from chocolate powder to flakes and pre-made concoctions.
We also tested a range of varieties and flavours including milk, dark and white hot chocolate as well as more adventurous flavours such as salted caramel, pistachio and cardamom and chocolate orange.
Overall, we were looking for hot chocolates which delivered maximum flavour, and ones which gave a rich, velvety texture. We were looking for the absolute best in hot chocolate – products which were well worth the price tag used top-quality ingredients and those which you would want to return to time and time again. We were also looking for hot chocolates which were smooth and silky to drink, without any lumps.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Love Cocoa white hot chocolate
Handmade in the UK and offering next-day letterbox delivery, Love Cocoa by James Cadbury (that’s the great-great-great-grandson of John Cadbury) creates luxury, ethical and delicious chocolate – and the brand’s new hot chocolate range is no exception. Available in flavours such as salted caramel, spiced orange and 40 per cent chocolate, these drinking chocolates are a taste sensation, but it’s the wite hot chocolate – made with natural vanilla –which came out top for us. The hot chocolate is also suitable for vegans, and the packaging is 100 per cent recyclable. Plus, for every box of hot chocolate bought, a tree is planted too. Good vibes all round.
Buy now £7.50, Love Cocoa
Choc Affair salted caramel milk hot chocolate
Handmade in York, Choc Affair’s hot chocolate flakes are a thing of beauty. While the chocolate orange and salted caramel flavours are also outstanding, it’s the latter we kept coming back to, cup after cup. To make it, we simply dissolved the chocolate flakes in a pan of heated milk and stirred them with a balloon whisk – but the end result felt like a professionally-made hot chocolate, which is testament to the quality of ingredients used. The flavour was spot-on too, with caramel notes balanced perfectly with a touch of sea salt. Divine.
Buy now £5.95, Choc Affair
Whittard peanut butter flavour hot chocolate
If you have a penchant for nutty chocolate bars, desserts and cakes, this one is most definitely for you. From the purveyors of fine tea, coffee and hot chocolate, this variety doesn’t actually contain any nuts – it sure does taste nutty though – and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It’s also simple to use; it comes in powdered form, and you simply need to add three heaped teaspoons to a mug or cup, along with 200ml of heated milk. Dessert in a mug, and deliciously lump-free. Did we mention we also love the packaging?
Buy now £9.00, Whittard
Paul Signature hot chocolate for two
From French patisserie makers Paul, this luxuriously rich and velvety hot chocolate is not unlike a fondant sauce. Once warmed, it has a silky, glossy, rich, texture – which is often difficult to achieve when making hot chocolate at home. This delicious hot chocolate is also fuss-free and instant; it’s pre-blended, so you don’t need to add any additional milk or water, nor is there the risk of it not mixing together properly or lumps forming. While it doesn’t have the longest of shelf lives once opened compared to other hot chocolates such as powders – you need to consume within a couple of days – given how delicious it is, we can guarantee you’ll devour it well within this timeframe anyway. Handily, this set also comes with two keep cups, so you can enjoy your hot chocolate on-the-go.
Buy now £27.50, Paul
Rude Health dairy free oat hot choc
This vegan-friendly dairy-free hot chocolate, made with an oat milk base and natural and organic ingredients, is rich, velvety-smooth and delicious. It’s also wonderfully instant. To make, it’s simply a case of pouring your serve from the carton and heating up in the microwave or hob. Considering how easy it is to compile and the fact it’s dairy-free, we were impressed with its flavour and consistency, and it’s one of the best vegan hot chocs we tested. An added bonus is you can also drink it cold, straight from the fridge – should you fancy.
Buy now £3.49, Rude Health
Willie’s Cacao rich dark drinking chocolate
When it comes to artisan chocolate, Willie’s Cacao takes a lot of beating, and the same goes for the drinking chocolate. Taking three weeks to make, this all-natural hot chocolate – made from just cacao and raw cane sugar, no other ingredients – is wonderfully rich, creamy and unadulterated, thanks to the purity of cocoa butter used. To make, simply put 25g of the powder in a mug along with 200ml hot milk, or you can whizz it up in a blender with cold milk to make a chocolate milkshake on warmer days.
Buy now £3.99, Holland & Barrett
Pump Street Chocolate drinking chocolate 75% st vincent
Suffolk-based bakers and chocolate makers Pump Street has made a name for itself when it comes to sweet treats, and we’re not surprised given the quality and flavour of its wares. The chocolate bars are outstanding, and the same applies to the hot chocolate range, which features 85 per cent and 75 per cent dark chocolate. Housed in keepsake tins, the hot chocolate itself comprises sizeable chocolate shavings – we have to admit we couldn’t resist eating some of the flakes directly from the tin with a spoon! Made with cocoa beans from St Vincent in the Caribbean, this particular hot chocolate boasts rich, fruity notes and is nothing short of divine.
Buy now £12.45, Pump Street Chocolate
Chococo 70% flaked dark chocolate
As served in Chococo’s Chocolate Houses across Dorset, these Madagascan 70 per cent pure dark chocolate flakes marry perfectly with milk. Made from single origin cocoa beans from the Sambirano region of Madagascar, the resulting hot chocolate is warming, flavoursome, and boasts subtle bitter notes characteristic of dark chocolate, without being overpowering. We also love the colourful cardboard tube the flakes come in.
Buy now £7.50, Chococo
Charbonnel et Walker Chocolat Charbonnel luxury hot drinking chocolate flakes
You’ve no doubt heard of (and devoured copious boxes) of Charbonnel et Walker’s chocolate truffles, but this heritage chocolate maker’s hot chocolate is certainly worth considering, too. Packed into a stylish keepsake tin, this hot chocolate – which is made to a recipe from 1875 – is made from 51 per cent cocoa solids and, when heated with hot water or milk, makes for a rich, velvet-smooth milk hot chocolate which tastes sensational. It also makes a great gift.
Buy now £5.99, Lakeland
The Chocolatier pistachio, cardamom, saffron & 23ct gold drinking chocolate
From marshmallow to salted caramel and even rose petal, The Chocolatier’s range of luxury drinking chocolates are enough to make your mouth water just thinking about them. And they deliver on taste and flavour, too. For the ultimate luxury hot chocolate, we’d recommend trying the pistachio, cardamom and saffron drinking chocolate. Complete with edible 23ct gold, this is one for celebrating with. It’s also lovely sprinkled over ice cream – cheers to that.
Buy now £18.00, The Chocolatier
The verdict: Hot chocolates
Love Cocoa’s White Hot Chocolate is a fantastic all-rounder and crowd-pleaser you’ll want to return to time and time again, while Choc Affair’s Salted Caramel Milk Hot Chocolate is a rich and creamy affair and a sure-fire winner in our eyes, too.