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Tasty Trends: Mexican Hot Chocolate

by Riley Sugarman

Photography by Ellen Clouse

Fall is officially upon us, and once again, pumpkin has become a part of everyday life. No dorm is complete without a windowsill pumpkin, roasted pumpkin seeds are the new snack of choice and the staple drink for any fall lover returns: the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

However, chocolate slowly replaces pumpkin when fall turns to winter, which gives coffee-drinkers incentive to replace their PSL with a variation of Mexican hot chocolate.

Flour Bakery + Café’s Fiery Hot Chocolate has been successful for years.

“The Fiery Hot Chocolate is kind of like a Mexican hot chocolate if you’ve never had one before,” said Flour employee Lydia Tao.

Flour’s version is made with ganache, milk and a mix of cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper.

According to Tao, only bold customers regularly order the Fiery Hot Chocolate.

“It definitely has its own following and usually if someone hasn’t [tried] it but asks about it, they end up [ordering] it,” Tao said.

Emily Chau (SAR ’17) prefers Flour’s Fiery Hot Chocolate to Starbucks’ version, known as the Chile Mocha.

“They’ve been making their Fiery Hot Chocolate for years with a rich homemade chocolate ganache base with [your] choice of milk,” Chau said. “Homemade ganache trumps [Starbucks’] chocolate syrup any day.”

After years of the PSL’s immense popularity, Starbucks thought it was time for their version of Mexican hot chocolate to steal the throne. On September 1, the Chile Mocha made its debut in stores nationwide—but Starbucks consumers did not react quite as expected.

“It’s not very popular,” said Barista Maya Terhune (CAS ’18). “Not many people order it…they usually just stick to the PSL.”

According to Terhune, the Chile Mocha is unique compared to most drinks at Starbucks and the spicy chocolate flavor isn’t necessarily attractive to the majority of its customers.

The drink emulates classic Mexican hot chocolate and is made with cocoa, cinnamon, chili mocha power, chili pepper and vanilla. Though a new spicy drink seems perfect for fall, the public was less endorsing than Starbucks anticipated.

Fenwick Eckhardt (SAR ’19) says it takes a certain type of consumer to stray away from the bandwagon.

“I think the PSL is a staple and people always associate it with fall, so trying to introduce something new wouldn’t be successful,” Eckhardt said.

Jenna Lanciani (SED ’19) disagrees. She predicts pumpkin will be out of season by the end of November and people will begin to embrace the holiday spirit with the new drink.

“I think the Chile Mocha might become more popular around Christmas time,” said Lanciani. “By then people will have had their fill of the PSL and might be more open to trying something new.”

The Fiery Hot Chocolate’s authentic flavor seems to put the Chile Mocha to shame, but the convenience of Starbucks locations across campus can’t be beat. Either way, both versions are refreshing for fall, so try putting down the pumpkin in favor of a new kind of spice this season.

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