Sure, those packets of cocoa seem easy and accessible, but resist the call of the chemicals, as real cocoa delivers not only superior taste but amazing health benefits as well, since it’s rich in antioxidant flavanols, which improve circulation, boosting cardiovascular health and cognitive function. You could go with Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder, but consider gourmet cocoa with a higher percentage of healthy dark chocolate. “I would start out by ditching the mix and making your own—equal parts high fat cocoa powder and granulated white sugar,” says Claire Smyth, lead pastry chef of The Kitchen Bistro in Chicago.
Add chai spice
There are so many directions in which to take the classic cocoa flavors. For an exotic Indian flavor profile, try creating your own chai spice mix: Add a dash of cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom (you might need to fine-tune the ratios to taste). “Chai spice creates a very romantic type hot cocoa and is extremely winter-warming,” says Liana Werner-Gray, the natural foods chef and best-selling author of The Earth Diet and 10-Minute Recipes: Fast Food, Clean Ingredients, Natural Health.