The botanical name of the cacao tree is Theobroma, which means "food of the gods," but some of the hot cocoas Consumer Reports recently tested are more heavenly than others.
The best one, Godiva Dark Chocolate, is full-bodied, with high-quality chocolate and cocoa flavors, roasted notes and a hint of vanilla. CR's trained tasters said the lowest-rated, Stephen's Dark Chocolate, is grayish and thin, with an artificial-chocolate flavor and the kind of sweet taste you find in cake mix. It also leaves an oily feeling in the mouth.
Preparation and serving sizes varied. CR rated products prepared with milk when it was recommended, and with water when given an option of water or milk. Using milk instead of water generally improved the lower-rated products only slightly. As prepared, all of the cocoas have 20 to 35 percent of the daily-recommended value of calcium except Stephen's, which has 6 percent.
Chocolate is a source of flavanols, anti-oxidants that have been linked to lowering blood pressure. Some cocoa-product labels mention antioxidants, but processing can mean a loss of flavanols, and most commercial cocoa drinks contain relatively small amounts, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, an independent, evidence-based evaluator of natural products.
Bottom line: Godiva tastes excellent, but you might want to save it for a special treat: at $1.37 per serving, it's higher in price, calories and fat than the others. Very good, less-pricey cocoas include two CR Best Buys: Hershey's, with mild chocolate and slight vanilla and malt flavors, 30 cents per serving, and Swiss Miss Dark, 20 cents per serving, chocolatey but with less dairy flavor.
CR's latest test of coffee makers found that Cooks CM4221, a J.C. Penney exclusive and CR Best Buy, can brew a better cup of Joe than coffee makers costing more than double its price of $40.
The Cuisinart Brew Central DCC-1200, $100; the Kalorik CM25282, $80; the Zojirushi Fresh Brew EC-BD15, $90; and the Krups Coffee Machine FMF5, $100, also scored Excellent for brew performance. All are programmable, so coffee can be fresh-brewed when you want it. The Zojirushi and Krups also have a thermal carafe, which helps keep brewed coffee warm without that burnt taste. But you pay for their conveniences.
Almost as good is the Black & Decker DLX1050B for $20. This CR Best Buy did a fine job of brewing coffee and is easy to use.
If you prefer a coffee maker that lets you fill mugs at the machine, consider the programmable Hamilton Beach BrewStation 47454, $80. It was CR's highest-scoring model and, along with the DeLonghi Multi DCF-212T, $50, offers brew-strength control, which adjusts water flow to make the coffee weaker or stronger. And for those who like to rush out the door, thermal mug in hand, the Black & Decker Brew'N Go DCM185, $25, brews a single cup in three minutes.
Single-serve, or pod, coffee makers also sacrifice performance for convenience and flexibility, one reason none of the 12 models CR tested made it into its Select Ratings. Your best bet? Choose one that offers the widest selection of coffee, tea and cocoa pods or K-cups.
The Emerson CCM901, $90, a CR Best Buy, and the Krups XP1500, $105, can brew espresso as well as coffee. But those combo models didn't brew quite as well as the best drip machines or brew stations.
For those who want the freshest possible coffee, CR tested six coffee makers that grind your beans and then brew the coffee. None of them aced all the tests. The Kalorik Magic Bean CCG24104, $270; Cuisinart Grind & Brew Thermal DGB600BC, $150; and Krups Grinder & Brewer KM7000, $165, all brewed excellently. The Kalorik scored well, except for its carafe; the Cuisinart and the Krups were less convenient overall.
By the editors of Consumer Reports at www.consumerreports.org.