Dessert Comes First

An obsession with dessert and other unabashed opinions of a food writer

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The Death of a Hot Chocolate

posted by in Miscellaneous

McCafé’s Cocoa Steamer was one of the first things I devoted much space to in the early days of DCF. I fell hard for it and blogging at about the same time. Flush with love, the Cocoa Steamer was one of the first things I waxed lyrical about. The liquid love affair continued when I mentioned it in A Few of My Coffee Favorites and in My Favorite Rainy Day Drinks. So yes, this beverage is way up there in my pantheon of drinks to live for.

Cocoa-Steamer_2011
Cocoa Steamer circa 2011. The barista forgot the stenciled “M”.

One Sunday morning, I’m at McCafé. I want to order the Cocoa Steamer because I haven’t had it in a while, but I can’t find it on the menu. There’s a somewhat ominously named “Premium Hot Chocolate” listed on the menu board but I’m thinking that can’t be it. There doesn’t seem to be an alternative however, so I order one.

Cocoa-Steamer_counter

The hot chocolate that arrives is a sickly taupe in color, a peculiar grey-brown. Where’s the crown of steamed milk? The fancifully fashioned “M” stenciled in cocoa powder? I can feel my brow creasing, a dull thudding in my temple keeping pace with the quickening beat of my heart. Somewhere, dread descends.

Gingerly, I take a sip. Instead of the headiness of dark chocolate overtaken by the sear of sweet, this is insipid liquid with just a hint of cocoa powder. To add salt to the injury – literally – there’s even a somewhat salty finish to the drink. There’s nothing “premium” about this hot chocolate at all: it’s the hot chocolate that’s served at McDonald’s, the very same one I grew up having with my Sausage & Egg McMuffin! So dumbstruck am I that I forget to take a photo of said drink.

Cocoa-Steamer_2013
Do not be deceived by that lush crown of brown and bubbles. Beneath it lies a pallid, sickly drink.

Unwilling to believe the injustice that’s befallen my beloved Cocoa Steamer, I make haste to another McCafé. The signboard still says “Premium Hot Chocolate”, but it’s only now that I see that it costs P78, less than my Cocoa Steamer that was slightly under P100. At this store, thankfully, the barista seems to be more “with it.” My beverage is served in good time and the presence of a frothy cap – sprinkled with cocoa powder, fancy that! – is promising. Never mind the absence of the stenciled “M,” I just want to be assured that my Cocoa Steamer still lives.

My heart soars…

but with one sip,

comes crashing down. This is regular McDonald’s Hot Chocolate dressed up for the ball. What’s that they say? Beauty is only skin-deep but ugly (flavor) goes to the bone. I scoff at this drink’s “premium” label and shudder at the thought of what “standard” might be. I stare at the offensive drink with a festering blend of pity and disgust. My Bin, ever the marketing mind, gently mentions shifting company priorities, segmenting markets … He’s probably right but the information flies over my head. I want to weep at the indignity my Cocoa Steamer has been put through.

Cocoa-Steamer_HK

In Hong Kong, I’m a martyr back for more punishment. The hot chocolate here is even more of an affront. The barista doesn’t even deign to properly dissolve the cocoa powder (it used to be chocolate sauce)! in the steamed milk. Clumps of it cling to the sides of the cup, dregs of disappointment is what they are. It’s as atrocious as the hot chocolate I have at the McCafé back in Manila; I can’t scrub the flavor fast enough from my mind.

I’m learning to accept that my Cocoa Steamer is no more. I wish it were a Halloween trick because this is certainly no treat. Why make such a big deal about hot chocolate, and one from a fast food chain, at that? Well, I’d introduced many people to this favored drink of mine, had many a meaningful conversation over cups of it. It’s a beverage steeped in sentiment. In the end however, the Cocoa Steamer, to me, was all about the taste, the process of drinking it and the pleasure that it brought. I will also miss its utter richness, so rich that it left chocolate ring marks inside the cup. I still love McCafé and will continue to enjoy their coffee beverages but never that poser parading as a hot chocolate.

One day I will taste another beverage that will remind me of my Cocoa Steamer. I look forward to those hot chocolates in my future but today, I remember the drink that is now a part of my past stored – as English historian,Thomas Fuller, says “… in the refrigerator of the mind and the cupboard of the heart.”

Cocoa-Steamer_empty_cups

10 Responses to “The Death of a Hot Chocolate”

  • Have you tried the hot chocolate at Blenz? They seem to take it seriously, melting chocolate buttons in milk upon order.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Richard-
    I have and it’s delicious but of course, it’s not the same.

    [Reply]

  • A love paean to a beverage that is no more. May you find one as good as or better.
    I have the same feelings for Hot Kapampangan Tsokolate stirred/emulsified with a batirol with hints of peanut.

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Thanks, Rainie, I’m sure I will. As for your hot Kapampangan Tsokolate, I recommend Nana Meng‘s. There are other good ones now too. Will send you a bottle OR I’ll gift you with all of them when you visit Manila.

    [Reply]

  • This isn’t about a single hot beverage of a single company: this is about all the favourites of the world that vanished forever! Who knows why, when we loved them so? Food can be such heartbreakers.

    I have my own chocolate ritual. Order a good, thick, dark Spanish chocolate. Because it’s so thick that you need accompaniments, you must certainly add an Americano. Now, because there is so much liquid, you must certainly order fruit or bread or both. Finally, because the food is plenty and beautiful, you must certainly enjoy conversation or a book, and feel content in the world, and feel happy. Repeat :)

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    I like how you think, anotherwise. I feel we’d make good eating partners.

    [Reply]

  • oh my… i love cocoa steamer too! :-(

    [Reply]

  • Forwarded this blog post to 3 friends working at Mcdonald’s. They promised to get this to the Menu Group to see what could be done. Fingers crossed! =D

    [Reply]

    Lori Reply:


    Thanks, Alfonso! I emailed you privately too.

    [Reply]

  • Is this the same base for the cocoa cooler? My wife and I used to love this drink, and we were horrified to discover that it was not available in HK when we moved here.

    [Reply]

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