5 Cocoa Drinks You Need to Try

Wherever I roam, I am always on the lookout for a comforting cup of chocolate. Powdered mixes won’t do—I search for drinks with deep, sophisticated flavors that are not overpowered with sugar. The following are my top discoveries that range from quintessential to the exotic:

L'Africain from Angelina

Angelina’s ‘L’Africain’ is like drinking a melted chocolate bar. (photo by Lara Dalinsky)

1. L’Africain from La Maison Angelina | Paris, France

Imagine a hot chocolate so dense that it’s almost as thick as pudding. Imagine one so decadent that it needs to be diluted with a heaping cup of homemade whipped cream. Imagine a texture so smooth it feels like silk in your mouth. Now stop imagining and get to Angelina in Paris. With over a century under its belt, the salon has perfected its classic L’Africain recipe. This chocolat chaud is so rich that it requires some slow sipping—you may even need to forgo Angelina’s gourmet pâtisserie selection to avoid dessert overload. There are several locations around Paris, including the Louvre and Versailles, but my favorite is the original Belle Epoque salon just across from the Tuileries Gardens on 226 rue de Rivoli. Paris, France; www.angelina-paris.fr

2. Spain from Escazu | Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Escazu is a bean-to-bar to chocolate-maker with a quaint storefront in the heart of Raleigh. It’s one of the few places in the USA that roasts its own beans onsite. In addition to selling high-quality bars and confections, the store offers a hot chocolate menu divided into two parts: contemporary and historic. I gravitate toward the historic selection that is based off recipes from the 16th and 17th century when chocolate was first introduced to Europe. My favorite is “Spain.” Developed in 1549, it is a complex and spicy combination of cocoa, vanilla, star anise, cinnamon, cornmeal, almond, hazelnuts, guajillo, pasilla chilies, and water. Other hot chocolate highlights include the refined “France” and heavenly “Peanut Butter.” 936 North Blount Street, Raleigh, NC 27604, USA; www.escazuchocolates.com

3. Madagascar from Frederic Blondeel | Brussels, Belgium

Frederic Blondeel’s chocolates are made by hand with passion using traditional methods and the highest quality ingredients. He knows chocolate so well that he has won eight gold medals from the UK’s Great Taste Award within the past 10 years. This Belgian master chocolatier may best known for innovative and exotic flavor profiles like Szechuan Pepper Ganache or Pear Brandy Truffle, but the Madagascar hot chocolate is a classic. This luscious drink is simply made with 63% cocoa and fresh vanilla. It’s so thick and creamy that it is served with a cup of water. His flagship store in located in the the vibrant Sainte Catherine neighborhood of Brussels where cup can be sipped in the tea room or ordered to-go and enjoyed while strolling along the canal. Quai aux Briques 24, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium; www.frederic-blondeel.com

Tiste from Nagoste, Nicaragua

‘Tiste’ is a chilled Nicaraguan drink made of ground cocoa, corn, sugar, and spices. (photo by Lara Dalinsky)

4. Tiste | Nagarote, Nicaragua

Hot cocoa may not seem appealing in tropical climates, but a chilled drink definitely hits the spot! In Nicaragua, tiste is a mixture of cocoa powder, roasted corn, cloves, sugar, and water poured over crushed ice. It is often served in a gourd carved out of the dried  jicaro fruit. Tiste is an evolution of ancient Mayan-Aztec cocoa concoctions that were spicy and bitter and intended for ceremonial use. The modern version is lightly sweetened and refreshing and is not meant to be a sumptuous dessert drink. Expect a gritty, watery texture with flavors that are complex, mild, and earthy. Around the cities of León and Nagarote, tiste is commonly served on its own or alongside maize-based tortilla dishes like quesillos.

Chocolate Caliente at Oyamel in DC

Oyamel in DC’s Penn Quarter. (photo from oyamel.com)

5. Chocolate Caliente at Oyamel Cocina Mexicana | Washington, DC

Star chef, José Andrés is known for taking a modern spin on traditional cuisines. No longer a local secret, both Washingtonians and tourists flock to his Penn Quarter restaurant, Oyamel, for Mexican small plates followed by his thick take on hot cocoa. His version of Oaxacan hot chocolate is a creamy blend of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla beans. For those who want to share, the beverage is also available to order by the pitcher. 401 7th Street NW, Washington DC 20001; www.oyamel.com

Where’s your favorite place to sample hot chocolate? Share your suggestions below.

Lara Dalinsky
Lara Dalinsky

Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 26 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of seeing the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.



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  1. James
    JamesMarch 6,14

    You can’t go past the hot chocolate in Spain especially when combined with churros. Makes the perfect winter breakfast.

    • Lara Dalinsky
      Lara DalinskyMarch 6,14

      James – Spain has some divine options, especially when churros are involved! Do you have any favorite spots for drinking some?