Hot Chocolate from Taza Chocolates (made at home), USA

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A few weeks ago, Merrill, a friend and fan of hot chocolate (smart girl), sent me a little package. Inside was a sampler pack of 4 Taza hot chocolates. Since then I have been anxiously waiting for the perfect day to try this out.  I have seen Taza hot chocolate sold at my local cheese store, and since I love everything that store sells, I figured there was a reason that they sold Taza hot chocolate. It must be good.

Today turned out to be the perfect day to try this out. Rich got home early and with the change in time it was still light outside. With the sun shining on the balcony and the temperature cool enough to enjoy a hot drink, we decided that this was the day. It took a while to decide which flavours to choose. My little sampler pack included three disks of flavoured chocolate; vanilla (50% dark), cinnamon (50% dark) and chilli (50% dark), with the last one just good old dark chocolate (70% dark). Today we settled on cinnamon and chilli.

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The packaging provides easy to follow instructions on how to create the hot chocolate. One cup of milk heated up, take it off the heat and add the chopped up chocolate. Mix until dissolved and then heat up again. Add a little pinch of salt and you are ready to enjoy it. We used my favourite hot chocolate testing mugs and brought them out to the balcony to drink.

I love what this company has done with its chocolate, from the marketing and branding to their sustainability angle. Everything is organic: the coco beans, the cane sugar, the vanilla beans, cinnamon and even the chilli powder. The cocoa is sourced directly from growers who are paid a fair price. The packaging is full of interesting tid bits. Apparently the company uses Oaxacan stone mills instead of steel refiners to grind their cocoa in small batches resulting in a unique texture and robust flavour. I love the brown packaging and the fonts used. I hadn’t even tasted the hot chocolae and I was a fan. How can this be bad…really?

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It wasn’t bad, in fact, it was fantastic! I really loved these hot chocolates and couldn’t find anything to fault. Rich had the chilli which had just the right amount of kick, while I had the cinnamon which was beautiful and rich. They were both silky and very easy to drink, and the flavour was a perfect balance, bitter but not too much and enough sweetness to satisfy a sweet palate.

Even after finishing my hot chocolate my newfound obsession with Taza continues. I spent quite a bit of time going through their website. They have factory tours in Somersville MA if anyone is over there, where they show you how they make their chocolate. They even organize a chocolate tour to Belize regularly.  All of their chocolates have a batch number on the packaging that you can enter into the site to learn more about your particular chocolate. They use bicycle couriers to deliver their chocolate locally and have really made sustainability part of their whole operations. Alex, Kathleen and Larry, the founders of Taza, basically created the hot chocolate company that I would have liked to create myself … which is good because that means that instead of starting a hot chocolate company, I can dedicate my time to drinking hot chocolates and tell you about them! Thank you for that.

And thank you Merrill! You can send me hot chocolate any day…really.

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Verdict: I really loved Taza hot chocolate disks, as you can probably tell. I can see this will turn into a guilty pleasure for me. Since writing this blog I have tried almost all the Taza flavourites and they are all fantastic! Taza Chocolate,

Hot Chocolate at Patagonia Home Made Products, Miami, USA

If you’ve had enough of the sun, sand and craziness of South Beach, head over to Miracle Mile in Miami. Miracle Mile is lined with a range of stores (mostly bridal) and also a lot of interesting restaurants and bars. In a little corner, almost hidden is Patagonia. Patagonia is like entering Argentina. The terrace is filled with Argentinian business men having lunch. Inside pretty much everyone seems to also be from Argentina, including the staff who all speak to me in Spanish. It feels like the kind of place I could camp out in, stay indefinitely.

There are two things to come to Patagonia for. First and foremost you come for Empanadas and that is why I came here. They have over 15 different flavours all better than the last. My favourite was the one called Patagonia which had some magical concoction of yummy things inside. Second, you come here for the wine. The walls are lined with a range of beautiful bottles from across Argentina, many Malbec from the Mendoza region.

I ate quite a few empanadas from here but I also stopped for a hot chocolate. I was really looking forward to this. During my travels last year in Argentina I had hot chocolates quite often. There they were called Submarinos, a small chocolate bar that was given to you with a tall glass of hot milk. You would mix or drop the Submarino chocolate into your milk and watch it slowly melt. It was a fantastic experience and it tasted so good. Unfortunately everything at Patagonia is Argentinian it seems except for their hot chocolate which was a powder from Nestle and was overly sweet.

Verdict: Forget about the hot chocolate. Come here for empanadas, wine and Argentinian sweets. Patagonia, 244 Miracle Mile  Coral Gables, Florida, USA.

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Hot Chocolate at Segafredo Cafe, Miami Beach, USA

Espanola Way in South Beach is a street just north of 14th between Washington and Penssylvania Avenues. Modelled after Mediterranean villages in France and Spain, the street looks slightly like a tourist trap that tourists don’t mind being trapped into. The area has a very rich history, starting out in the early 1920s as a meeting place for the wealthy, it then became a hangout for the infamous Al Capone and then finally a backdrop for films and shows such as Miami Vice. The road is lined with a range of good restaurants, one of the best gelato places I have been to in a long time (Milani) and an outside patio where I had my last south beach hot chocolate for the weekend called Segafredo Cafe.

Segafredo Cafe has one of the most incredible hot drink menus I have ever seen. There must have been 50 different kinds of coffee in their drinks menu. For a minute I was really excited that I might have a choice of hot chocolates….but no. There was one choice called, not surprisingly, hot chocolate. But that one hot chocolate was good. It was the perfect size, not too sweet and just went down so easily. I really enjoyed this one.

Verdict: No complaints here! I could drink this one every day. For a few moments, it feels like I have left South Beach behind and I am on terrace in Italy. Order the tiramisu too. Molto bene!   Segafredo Cafe, Espanola Way, Miami Beach, FL, USA

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11th Street Diner, Miami South Beach, USA

The 11th Street Diner at 1065 Washington Ave looks like it was taken straight out of a movie set, both on the outside and the inside. Inside you are seated at comfy blue and red booths.

The Diner was built in 1948 by the Paramount Dining Car Company of Haledon, New Jersey. For 44 years it lived in Wilkes Barre, Pensilvania hosting customers there.  It was dismantled and transported to Miami in the early 1990s.  After several months of restoration to get it back into its original art deco form, it reopened its doors on September 11, 1992. It now serves traditional American food 24 hours a day.

The menu is exactly what you would expect from a good old American diner, simple but good. I wouldn’t come back for the hot chocolate though. It looked great but was just too sweet.

Verdict : I loved the diner, but I think I’d go there next time for something more traditional, like a milkshake.

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News Cafe, Miami South Beach, USA

I spent the past weekend in Miami, South Beach. South Beach isn’t necessarily known for its hot chocolate, but I had the chance to experience a handful of places first hand. First stop, News Cafe. Open since 1988, News Cafe started as a small sidewalk cafe and bookstore on the corner of 8th and Ocean Drive in the Art Deco District of Miami Beach. Today it is open 24 hours a day and serves a steady stream of tourists and locals drinks, coffees and food.

We waited for a few minutes to get a table outside for the view and to enjoy the weather. I had read that since the 18% tip is included in the bill the servers almost go out of their way to be snappy and unfriendly but our waiter was buzzing and all smiles.  My hot chocolate came in a large glass mug with a handle. It was topped with a dollop of whip cream and finished off with a straw.It was the first time I had a hot chocolate with a straw in it. I was skeptical about the straw, but pleasantly surprised, it worked for me. The hot chocolate was a bit too sweet, not something I would or could drink every day, and the glass was too big, but other than that I enjoyed it. Most of all I just enjoyed sitting and watching the palm trees sway in the breeze.

We also had breakfast but weren’t so impressed. Eggs benedict is meant to have hollandaise sauce, not cream cheese sauce. Why would you do that? Regardless I would be happy to sit at News Cafe every morning and watch the crazy world of South Beach go by.

Verdict: If you are in South Beach you have to sit at one of the terraces on Ocean Drive at least once. News Cafe is a great place to watch the craziness of South Beach walk by. Would happily come back.

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