Though for many of us growing up the only choice for hot chocolate was warm Milo or Bourneville Cocoa, a whole lot of artisan producers have popped up recently with new sophisticated offerings. Two I've stumbled across recently are Equagold and Sims and Bosh, both with very different charms.

Equagold was originally a vanilla company started by Ross and Dianne Appleton, when the lady from whom Dianne was buying her pure vanilla asked her if she wanted to buy the company. They now provide all sorts of seasonings and baking ingredients and have garnered quite a following.

Equagold's Ultimate Indulgent Drinking Chocolate comes with its own bottle of vanilla to make the drink even smoother.

I particularly like Dianne's suggestion of adding a few of the Equagold Belgian Style Dark Chocolate Couverture Drops (53 per cent) to give it a bit more richness.


Ross specifies the 53 per cent over anything higher after extensive testing.

The company Equagold sources their raw cocoa product from have a policy called SERAP (Socially and Environmentally Responsible Agricultural Practices programmes) and focus strongly on ethical growing and labour issues. All the blending is done here in New Zealand.

My other new discovery is Sims and Bosh, the brainchild of another Diane, Diane Sims. Originally from a fashion background, she started a cafe after her kids were born and was eternally frustrated, as a non coffee and tea-drinker, at the lack of good hot chocolate.

Her creation has an interesting point of difference. Also extremely ethically-sourced, Sims and Bosh use a company that works to develop grower co-ops and uses UTZ certification which undertakes sustainability education for growers/farmers. Diane employs an aromatherapist in New Zealand to blend up some flavours with a twist. A relaxing variety has valerian root, lavender, bergamot and marjoram; the one called Passion zings with ylang ylang, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, vanilla and tangerine. Other blends are charmingly named Love, Joy, Refresh and Energy, so that when you are in a chocolate mood, you have to decide just which sort of choc mood.

The concept didn't appeal to me at all, but I actually really enjoyed the aromatherapy blends. The essences were clearly present but the chocolate flavour was so strong that none of them were overpowering. It was more like a beautiful fragrance followed by a magnificent dark, rich, deep, chocolate hit. If that's all a bit too out there for you, Sims and Bosh also do an original, mocha and dark. We're hoping spring is on its way, but make the most of the last cold days to indulge in a mug full of liquid chocolate comfort.

Where to buy
* Sims & Bosh: Karaka Country Market: Cnr Linwood and Blackbridge Rds, Karaka. Temptations: 22 King St, Pukekohe

* Equagold: All good gourmet shops and selected New Worlds.