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Butlers is very common back in Ireland where I come from, and I am a big fan of their hot chocolate. Thick, creamy and really chocolatey with no powdery taste or bitter aftertaste, I was really dissapointed to discover nothing comes close to the taste over here. In a Butlers cafe there is always a big vat of molten chocolate, and if you order a hot chocolate a big ladlefull of this is spooned into your cup, and topped up with hot, frothy milk. The at home hot chocolate involves dropping a solid chocolate lump in the shape of a cup into a pan of hot milk, and stiring while it dissolves to stop it sticking or burning. The box also suggests using a mix of milk and cream, or the truely heart stopping just cream. It is therefore fairly easy to prepare, although it is a shame it requires a hob which means I can't take any in to have at work. I first made this using my normal semi-skimmed milk, and the results were good. Not great, but certainly better than any cup of hot chocolate made with a powder. However it was still thinner than a cup of proper Butlers chocolate. So I tried putting half milk and half single cream. This produced better results, thicker and creamier, but still not chocolatey enough. So I tried using two chocolate cups, and suddenly I was close enough to there! Using two chocolate cups per mug does make this quite expensive. You get 10 little cups in a box, with the exchange rate as it is it is the equivalent of around £7 a pack, or around 12 euros. You can buy them in cafes mostly centered around Dublin, or purchase them online and have them delivered. They are a lovely treat, but to be honest I do think the price is very steep for what they are. They are thicker than normal chocolate, but for the price I'd rather just throw a few squares of milk and a few squares of dark into a pan with some milk and I think the results would be similar. On quite a few occassions we've flown to Dublin for under £1 each, so my advice would be keep an eye on Ryanair, and fly for a day in Dublin and get the real thing in one of their cafes.
I have mixed feelings about Butlers chocolates in general - I have tasted many of their products, and I love some of them, and am not so keen on others. So, it was with interest that I tried this new product. It has only just become available here in Ireland, I am not sure you can buy it in the UK as yet. First things first - the box itself is very attractive. It is a rich chocolatey brown colour with the Butlers logo in gold, and a photo of a pair of hands holding a teacup with a delicious looking chocolate drink in the cup, and a piece of the chocolate that you find inside dropping into the drink. Looks very yummy and inviting!! When you open the box, there is a "chocolate box" style tray inside with 10 pieces of chocolate shaped kind of like a teacup (see accompanying photo). Also inside is a small card with instructions, and ideas for variations on plain old hot chocolate. Eg, use cream instead of milk, add marshmallows on top, add a shot of espresso to make a mocha etc etc The box contains 10 servings, the net weight is 230g, and contains the following ingredients (no nutritional information - you can probably find that on the Butlers website)... Skip this bit if you want to go straight on to the taste test! "Milk chocolate 29% (sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, emulsifier: soya lecithin, flavouring: natural vanilla), cocoa mass (25%), invert sugar syrup, sugar syrup (sugar, water, preservative: sorbic acid), sweetened condensed milk (milk, sugar). (Milk chocolate contains: 32% cocoa solids minimum, 20% milk solids minimum. Cocoa mass contains: 96% cocoa solids minimum). This product contains milk and soya and may contain traces of nuts and gluten." The box retails at Euro4.99, making it Euro0.50 a cup. The simple instructions to make are as follows: "1. Pour a teacup full of full cream milk (about 150ml) into a saucepan. Add a Butler Hot Chocolate Cup. 2. Warm over a medium heat, stirring all the time and allow the Hot Chocolate Cup to melt. 3. When the chocolate has melted and is thoroughly mixed with the milk, pour into a cup and enjoy." Simple enough! For my first attempt, I actually heated a mug of milk in a jug using the cappuccino steamer, frother thing on our coffee machine to make the milk , well, frothier. I must say that I was a little disappointed. There was a very weak chocolate taste overall. It didnt taste bad, dont get me wrong - anything made from chocolate is bound to be good - but it just wasnt chocolately enough. Then I noticed that it said specificaly in the instructions to heat a TEACUP of milk, not a mug as I had done. So, necessity forced me to make another cup - this time using the correct dosage of milk. I carefully measured out 150ml of milk, frothed it all up, and in went the chocolate cup. Much better this time (why you should always read the instructions... ehem...). Still not quite as chocolatey as I would like, but it got better as it went on. The chocolate flavour itself is not too sweet, but not too bitter, a nice balance with an almost nutty aftertaste. Overall, to be honest, I think you would almist be as well to buy a bar of your favourite chocolate (milk, dark, white - whatever), and just melt that into some milk - that's basically what this Butlers Hot Chocolate Cup is - a piece of milk chocolate. However, it is packaged attractively, and would make a good-looking (and good-tasting, to be fair) addition to a gift hamper. Perhaps cello-wrapped up together with a nice mug, some marshmallows and a packet of choc chip biscuits? Mmmm (Same review also on Ciao)