Ranking 5 cups of cocoa from Salt Lake City bakeries and chocolate shops

All of these picks use real chocolate or cocoa powder in their hot chocolate — just taste the difference.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A cup of hot chocolate from Forty Three Bakery.

Cocoa is an indulgence by definition, a treat that warms your soul and puts a little smile on your face. It’s not attached to the daily ritual of coffee-drinking; sipping hot chocolate is a special moment to be savored and enjoyed.

Not all cocoa is created equal, though, and it all depends on how you make it. For this article, I made an effort to find five places in Salt Lake City that use real chocolate or cocoa, not a commercially prepared powder mix, to make their hot chocolate. All you have to do is taste them to understand the difference.

Bonus: All of these businesses are bakeries or chocolate shops, so they all have much more to offer than just cocoa. If you want to really indulge your sweet tooth, grab a pastry or other sweet to go with your chocolatey beverage.

Just for fun — and to celebrate National Hot Chocolate Day on Wednesday, Jan. 31 — let’s rank these cups of cocoa from the least rich to the richest.

5. Fillings & Emulsions

This eclectic Latin-influenced bakery makes their cocoa using a ganache mixture, which they stir slowly into steamed milk, according to an employee. The result is a cocoa that’s on the less-sweet side, but still creamy and chocolatey.

To go with your cocoa is an array of baked goods, including scones, macarons, croissants, kouign amann, meat pies and much more. For Valentine’s Day, Fillings & Emulsions is offering conversation cookies and heart-shaped macarons. 1475 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, 385-229-4228; 1980 W. 3500 South, West Valley City, 385-549-1167; FillingsAndEmulsions.com.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A cup of hot chocolate from Eva's Bakery.

4. Eva’s Bakery

To get the full effect of this beautiful hot chocolate, make sure you drink it in the cafe. Crafted with a mocha sauce made from dark chocolate chips, according to a server, this cocoa comes with a thick layer of foam on top, complete with latte-style art. The hot chocolate itself is well-balanced, not too rich or too sweet, but just right.

To go with your cocoa is a variety of baked items — such as French macarons, chocolate eclairs, sticky buns, fruit tarts, cinnamon rolls, kouign amann, croissants, cakes, cookies and more. 155 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, 801-355-3942; EvasBakerySLC.com.

3. Chez Nibs

Chez Nibs — the latest venture of chef Romina Rasmussen (now operating Xiao Bao Bao, and formerly the owner/baker at Les Madeleines) — is a chocolate shop, so the hot chocolate here is no afterthought.

According to Rasmussen, her cocoa is made with two different types of chocolate: a 73% cacao dark chocolate from Guatemala, and a 35% cacao milk chocolate with caramel notes from Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. The chocolates are made into a ganache, which is combined with cream and vanilla bean syrup, Rasmussen said.

“It’s very luscious and smooth, and although it has a larger percentage of dark chocolate, it’s not bitter and is very approachable,” she said. “It’s great on its own, or even more fab with whipped cream.”

This hot chocolate is plenty rich on its own, but it’s also great with Rasmussen’s signature pastry, the kouign amann. 212 E. 500 South, Suite A, Salt Lake City, 801-673-8340; Instagram: @cheznibs

2. Forty Three Bakery

Forty Three Bakery, located in Poplar Grove on Salt Lake City’s west side, does use a powder to make their hot chocolate. But before you make any assumptions about the quality of this cocoa, let me explain. Forty Three Bakery makes its own hot chocolate powder mix using dark cocoa powder, granulated sugar, milk powder, flaky sea salt and baking spices — all of which are then steamed in the milk, according to chef Andrew Corrao.

Using a powder in lieu of a ganache, Corrao said, allows the cocoa to blend with the milk and “bloom,” instead of having any chocolate remain at the bottom of the cup.

Corrao tops the velvety mixture with a dollop of croissant whipped cream (which is absolutely sensational) and shaved chocolate. The result is complex and lightly spiced, with a layer of foam on top, and it seems to unfold as you drink it.

If you want to nibble something alongside your hot chocolate, the croissant donuts are a perfect pairing. 733 W. Genesee Ave, Salt Lake City, 435-962-1628; FortyThreeBakery.com.

(Kolbie Peterson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A mug of hot chocolate from Hatch Family Chocolates.

1. Hatch Family Chocolates

This cocoa is what chocolate dreams are made of. Hatch Family Chocolates — owned by Katie Masterson and Steve Hatch — is rightly famous for its hot chocolate, which is made with Guittard milk chocolate and dark chocolate, steamed milk and heavy whipping cream. You can ask for a scoop of whipped cream on top if you need some extra decadence, or request a flavor add-in such as Aztec spice, gingerbread spice or peppermint, but trust me when I say that one cup of this stuff is as rich as it comes.

One employee said the hot chocolate is Hatch Family Chocolates’ most popular item, and during the winter, people will form lines out the door to order it.

Hatch Family Chocolates also offers frozen hot chocolate, which is cocoa that’s blended with crushed ice and a scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream, then topped with vanilla whipped cream. It’s available year round, so you can experience chocolate maximalism even when it’s hot out. 376 E. Eighth Ave., Salt Lake City, 801-532-4912; HatchFamilyChocolates.com.