You all know about my love for hot chocolate during the winter months, don’t you? I’ve written about it many times. I even shared the ultimate in hot chocolate with you when I was working in New York City last year. This rich confection was a treat from the City Bakery:
My favorite? Ghirardelli’s. Umm-ummm good!
But Ghirardelli’s is a bit pricey. I usually find a way to validate my purchase: “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I rarely eat out, it’s cold outside. I deserve it.” But as winter is winding down, I couldn’t quite justify buying another tin. I started drinking Mandarin Orange Spice Herbal Tea in the afternoon. Very nice, but not quite the same as hot chocolate. Yes, it has a pleasant taste, it’s hot, it’s in a mug…but it’s not chocolate.
So, I found myself at Trader Joe’s the other day and happened upon a display featuring their tins of hot chocolate. Perfect, said I, perfect! Because we all know part of the allure of Trader Joe’s is the great prices. The price turned out to be considerably less than Ghirardelli’s. Yippee! And why not try another brand? I was expanding my horizons. I was proud of myself.
Fast forward a few days. Don left for work in the late afternoon. I feed the dogs at that point, make some tea or hot chocolate and sit down in the den. It’s a peaceful time that I look forward to. The dogs sack out after they’ve chowed down. The house is quiet. I usually read some blogs and sip on my beverage of choice.
Ah! This was the time to make that hot chocolate from Trader Joe’s. I warmed up the milk – actually, almond milk – and read the directions on the label which said to add 2 tablespoons of cocoa to warm milk. Hmmm. Ghirardelli’s instructions were to add 4 tablespoons. I figured I’d split the difference and use 3.
Off I went to the den, mug in hand, dogs at my feet. I got settled, opened up my laptop and proceeded to take a sip of the hot chocolate.
My mouth felt like it was on fire.
My taste buds were screaming. It felt like someone had dumped pepper in the mug and mixed it with the hot chocolate. It was bad. I almost did a spit take – had I been in a movie, I guarantee the director would have made me do one. What happened? Had I dumped everything into a mug that had something else in it? Unlikely. Was this a bad batch? Had someone, God forbid, tampered with the hot chocolate, like the Tylenol scare of so many years ago?
I ran to the kitchen and dumped it out. What the ???
Then I grabbed the tin for a closer look.
It was ‘Spicy Hot Cocoa.’
Spicy? Who the heck drinks Spicy Hot Cocoa? Well, obviously people do, but not me! When I told Don about it, he imagined the spices to be cinnamon and cloves; gentle, warm, comforting spices. Well, there’s cinnamon in it, for sure. But the main spice? Cayenne Pepper.
Yes, you read that correctly. Cayenne Pepper.
No wonder I ran to the kitchen, mouth on fire.
I immediately found some sort of generic brand of hot chocolate buried in the pantry and proceeded to drink it. I had to erase the sense memory of that nightmarish taste.
Lesson learned. Read labels more carefully. And pay the extra $3.50 for Ghirardelli’s.