What does an editor do when she needs a break?

Why, she taste tests chocolate, of course!

Seriously, this was a Very Important Experiment this morning. For Lent, I’ve given up dairy. I’m not Catholic, but I think this is a good tradition to give a spiritual meaning to what you’re sacrificing, and it was what has pushed me over the edge to actually do this experiment right (Mormons fast once a month for similar purposes). You see, lots of people have told me that when they gave up dairy, it solved their sinus problems. But I L-O-V-E dairy. Cheese, milk, butter, hot chocolate with milk in it, all the different foods that have milk products, like Italian with all its cheeses, pizza, oh, I could go on and on. I try not to reach for sugary snacks (oh, I fail at that too, but in general…), so instead I’ll reach for a cup of hot chocolate (okay, sugary) or milk or string cheese or whatever.

Well, this presents major problems, if you’re trying to give up hot chocolate, when you love it so much! How do you implement such a drastic change in your diet? 

Lucky for me, I have a coworker and a friend who are both vegan and they’ve given me some very good, very specific advice. Ingredients to look for, suggestions for easy meals for making the transition, a long list of foods that I probably eat anyway so I’m not completely changing my diet in one fell swoop.

But what do you do about hot chocolate? After all, it’s the chocolate part that I love, not necessarily the milk (though the milk does make it takes quite yummy!). And most hot chocolates have milk ingredients just in the mix. Nestle, Swiss Miss, all the cheap hot chocolates are so because a large portion of their ingredients are things like nonfat dried milk.

Thriftway to the rescue. It happens to be the grocery store nearest my work, and I was browsing one day needing a chocolate fix. The really dark chocolates, like Ghirardelli’s 60% Cacao, don’t have milk. I was wondering if there was a hot chocolate equivalent, and if so, if it would work with soy milk.

Success! Over the course of the last week, I found three different kinds that don’t have milk ingredients. 

A local brand called Chocolate Vitale (subti
tle, European Classic: Drink of the Gods), Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate Drink, and Ghirardelli’s Double Chocolate hot cocoa all were dairy-free. I showed them to my coworker, who checks the ingredients again just to be sure I haven’t missed one she can’t eat (she’s been doing this for years, so there are a number of ingredients I might have missed that she would recognize), and she also pronounced them good for vegans (Green & Black’s makes it easy–they have a nice little “Suitable for Vegetarians & Vegans” pronouncement under the ingredients).

So, this morning she brought her favorite soy milk, and I brought some (I have no favorite yet, excepting that I’ll never again get the organic brand that came out truly brown with little chunks, obviously spoiled), and we mixed three cups each, one for each kind of chocolate. 

The results? We roughly agreed. She liked the Chocolate Vitale best, with Ghirardelli coming in second, and Green & Black being nice, but not her favorite–a little too on the bitter side. I pretty much am split between Chocolate Vitale and Ghirardelli, because they’re both yummy for different reasons. G. is best for the cocoa taste, and C.V. is most like drinking heated thick chocolate (yum!). G.&B. was nice, but I wonder if I didn’t make it right, or if it was just that tasting it alongside the other two I realized I preferred them more. I’ve made it before and enjoyed it, but this was the first time I tried all three side by side.

Well, there you have it. Vegan hot chocolate for the masses. If you know of any other brands, do let me know, because those are just the ones I happened to find at the local stores. For example, does Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s sell a vegan hot chocolate I should know about?

My dairy experiment will probably end at Easter, because it doesn’t seem to be doing much for my sinus situation, but at least I’m expanding my diet choices and finding I like quite a bit of this stuff! 🙂