Chai-Spiced Hot Cocoa


As a child growing up in New England there was nothing better than coming inside after playing out in the snow and making a cup of hot cocoa. It was part of the winter ritual. After yesterday’s snow day, it only seems appropriate to share a recipe for a spiced up version of this classic winter drink.

Fun fact: In America, “hot chocolate” refers to any hot drink made with chocolate ingredients. What most people are actually drinking, in fact, is hot cocoa. Cocoa powder is ground up cacao that’s had the fat stripped away, either through a natural process or a “Dutched” process that subjects the powder to potassium carbonate.

Whatever you call it, forget about making it with the premade packages. Those packets are full of murky ingredients. All you need is milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, and a sweetener. Not relying on hot cocoa packets means you can regulate the ingredients and the amount of sugar.

Let me all say that I firmly believe hot cocoa should be made with milk (dairy or non-dairy) not water. It adds a richness to the flavor that makes all the difference. So, to the milk, I infused whole spices like cinnamon, clove, cardamom and anise.  The spices are known to have soothing properties, are full of good-for-you antioxidants, and most importantly add a deeper dimension to the cocoa flavor. It’s chocolatey, spicy, and slightly sweet. It’s perfect to sip as you watch the snow fall, or watch someone shovel the walkway, you know, same difference.

Chai Hot Cocoa
Serves 2


  • 2 cups milk
  • 2.5-inch cinnamon stick
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 6 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Place the first 6 ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  2. Bring almost to a simmer. Remove from heat. Cover and steep 10 minutes.
  3. Place back on the stove over medium heat. Whisk in cocoa and vanilla. Bring the mixture back up to a light simmer.
  4. Remove from heat. Strain or scoop out the spices.
  5. Pour the infused hot cocoa into two mugs and enjoy.


Photos by Renato Ghio

Join the Conversation

  1. Such an interesting recipe…I d love to try this..maybe add a liquor of some kind.

  2. Oh yes. A boozy version of this sounds fantastic! Off the top of my head I'd try one of these: Kahula, Amaretto, Frangelico, or Rum. Any others?

  3. My fav besides my addicting coffee!

  4. Did someone say chai hot chocolate and booze? I'm there!

  5. Sounds yummy! And I am also a firm believer in milk, not water, for hot chocolate!

  6. This sounds like HEAVEN and I am so making it!!!

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