There are few things better than a frothy cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day. Though I discovered recently that there’s even more to be gained than a warm belly.
When talking about the sense of taste, we generally discuss four categories (particularly when discussing them with children): sour, sweet, salty, and bitter. Coincidentally, three out of these four are perfectly represented in a home brewed mug (and the fourth can easily be added as a snack on the side).
Here’s the recipe I use:
(adapted from Hershey’s)
4 cups milk (I use the kids’ whole milk for the really good stuff)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
For the simplest route, combine all ingredients in a hot chocolate maker like this one* and press start! (I presume the same results can be achieved by mixing all the ingredients in a pot on the stove and stirring constantly until warmed to the desired temperature, though I haven’t used that method myself.)
As I measured out the ingredients into my lovely hot chocolate maker recently, the kiddos were asking to taste the cocoa powder. I thought about explaining that the powder itself is bitter, but I thought I’d let them figure it out the old fashioned way: by experiencing it — along with some of the other ingredients. I put just a little of the powdered sugar, the salt, and the cocoa powder onto the kids’ plates.
They dabbed a bit of each on their tongues and we talked about what kind of taste they experienced. Sweet — Salty — Bitter (which was usually chased by a little more sweet). It was then that I actually realized that we had three out of the four taste categories in our recipe! To add the fourth and final — sour — we peeled some tart oranges we had on hand and ate them as well. (Lemons would have been perfect, but sometimes you just have to play the hand you’re dealt!)
You could even go one step further and have the children taste each category again with their noses plugged. The tastes will disappear. In fact, if blindfolded and nose plugged, children will likely not be able to discern between the cocoa powder and the powdered sugar, as their texture is the same and the taste will be muted. An extension activity like this illustrates that the nose and its sense of smell is actually a very big part of the sense of taste!
After discussing the different taste experiences, we enjoyed the homemade hot chocolate and talked about how all those flavors that were too salty, too bitter, and even too sweet (for me!) on their own were all just right when they were combined in a recipe. The whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts!
So the next time the kids you love and teach are in the mood for a spot of hot chocolate, do something a little extra and help them explore the sense of taste!