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Review: Camino Original Milk hot chocolate

Camino Original Milk hot chocolate
A mug of Camino Original Milk hot chocolate, made with water.

Yes, the second hot chocolate on my month-long quest is also an organic, fair trade product. See, the Carnation folks really do have a death-grip on the Canadian hot chocolate market, which makes finding alternatives in the grocery store harder than you’d think.

I found this tin in Safeway, next to all the Carnation varieties. It looked cute and compact, and what little experience I have with Camino products has been mostly positive.

The Pitch: “Welcome to the path, or in Spanish, the camino. Your purchase of a Camino product is a step forward on the path towards change. Through the joy of drinking good hot chocolate, you are contributing to building vibrant sustainable communities throughout the Caribbean, Central America and South America.” More specifically: “Creamy indulgence,” and “Treat yourself to a delicious cup of smooth and milky hot chocolate.” Gluten-free, fair trade, organic. “Includes powdered milk.”

The Look: Squat little foiled cardboard tin with a plastic lid. Lots of symbols to indicate how compliant it is with various dietary/ethical programs. The drink stirs into a deep shade of brown, and the powder dissolves readily.

The Cost Per Cup: Per 250 mL of water, the instructions stipulate 2 to 3 tbsp of mix should be used, but the nutritional info assumes you’re using 3 tbsp, which weighs 35 grams. So, per 336 g tin, there are 9 whole servings (and some leftover mix). At $7.59 per tin, each of those nine servings works out to $0.84.

The Taste (with water): The instructions say to use water, not milk, when mixing it, so that’s what I used. There’s milk powder in the mix, so that’s supposed to take care of the dairy. In practise, it doesn’t work. The chocolate stands above the other flavours, but the milk is largely missing in action. An off-putting chemical note lingers in the aftertaste, and it has a slick thickness to it that you can sense as the liquid rolls around in your mouth. The texture feels wrong. Overall, just not right.

The Taste (with milk): I made another cup with the same proportions, but used 2% lactose-free milk instead of hot water. This would obviously change the flavour, and I expected it would round out some rough edges. I was right. Instead of thin and slimy, the texture is thick and creamy (almost too much so, no doubt thanks to the guar gum). Nice intensity, mouth-filling sweetness, and enough flavour from the milk that I don’t notice the strange chemical element from the water-based version. Much, much better.


Cost: $7.59 for a 336 gram tin at Safeway in Calgary.

Value for cash money: Not good.

Availability: Organic shops or large grocery stores. I was surprised to find it at Safeway.

Nutrition?: Per 3 tbsp (35 grams): 140 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, 40 mg of sodium, 2 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein. Also, 10% daily value each of calcium and iron.

Ingredient List: While the Green & Blacks hot chocolate had a tiny ingredient list, this one is longer. The list reads: Golden cane sugar, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, guar gum, sea salt, carob bean gum, vanilla powder.

The verdict: Made with water, as per directions? Not worth it. Made with milk, as per culinary common sense? Much, much better. Thick, sweet and creamy. If you can learn anything from this month’s hot chocolate theme, it’s that you’re almost always going to be WAY better off using milk as a hot chocolate base instead of water.

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