Warming Up – Dunkin Donuts offers best CF cocoa

With the cold winter season upon us, coffee shops have begun the relentless push of hot drinks that are meant to appetize and warm the cold civilians outside its doors. That perfect cup of hot chocolate should be easy to find, with so many different places offering a wide variety of holiday drinks. For me personally, that perfect cup of hot chocolate has to have a super rich delicious chocolate flavor, and not have a single hint of wateriness. After weighing the options, I decided to go to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Panera and McDonald’s to survey the contestants. I set out to find the best coffee from a chain store in Cedar Falls.

  1. Dunkin  Donuts

    Honestly, I was quite surprised by this one. Dunkin Donuts has really stepped up their game when it comes to the hot chocolate. The drink had a rich, milk chocolatey flavor with notes of creaminess. There was teeny bit of a watery after taste, but compared to the others, it was definitely not bad at all. I can certainly see myself coming back to Dunkin for another. I can tell that this was made right after I ordered it, because it kept warm for nearly 15 minutes while I drove to school, and it was still piping hot when I took my first sip. 

    Overall score: 8/10 

  2. Panera

    The best part of this hot chocolate was most definitely the toppings. On top of the drink, there was a large swirl of sweet whipped cream that was light and airy. Over top of the whipped cream sat three perfect homemade chocolate chip marshmallows, which were dense and just sweet enough without being too overwhelming. Then, they drizzled over a light brown caramel, with a saltiness tha perfectly balanced out the sweet notes of whipped cream and marshmallow. Underneath all of that wonderfulness, the drink itself was actually kind of underwhelming. It wasn’t bad at all, it just was not rich enough for me. It tasted very milky and kind of watered down rather than having that rich, deep, signature chocolate taste that accompanies that perfect cup of hot chocolate. Overall, this cup definitely gave you that picture perfect Polar Express looking hot chocolate, but lacked in flavor when it came to the drink. 

    Overall score: 7/10

  3. Starbucks

    As much I was expecting from this signature coffee chain, this hot chocolate left a lot to be desired. The overall taste of the drink itself was watered down and lacked a real chocolate flavor. From what I could actually taste of the chocolate, it was dark and did not have a hint of richness. It also had a weird aftertaste of watery milk, and it was lukewarm when it arrived.  Actually, the best part of this drink was the festive green and white holiday cup. Maybe Starbucks should just stick to the coffee for now. 

    Overall Score: 4/10

  4. McDonalds

    McDonald’s was most definitely the worst out of everything I tried. It barely even tasted like chocolate, just hot water with a scoop of Swiss Miss. Please don’t waste your money here. I thought I should include this just to give some perspective on what the drastic differences are. The only thing slightly good about this cup was the holiday packaging, and even that seemed like a rip off of Starbucks. I was really disappointed in McDonald’s for this one because I feel like McDonald’s specializes in things that are cheap but still somewhat worth your while. For now, McDonald’s should veer away from hot chocolate until they can get their act together.

    Overall score: 2/10

    Overall, I feel like I learned a lot about what chain stores have to offer in terms of hot chocolate. In a surprising upset, Dunkin Donuts came out on top, which is something that I was not expecting. 

    I also was going to try out Caribou Coffee, but on the night I went, they closed at 5 p.m. I think this automatically disqualifies them due to the fact that a majority of hot chocolate cravings occur on cold wintery nights. 

    Out of the four options, there was a very wide range of quality. At generally the same price, all these different drinks really show the value of what you can get for a couple of dollars. 

    Next time you want a hot chocolate, drive right on past McDonald’s and head straight for Dunkin Donuts for a reliable classic option that won’t let you down.

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