Is Vancouver's annual Hot Chocolate Festival nothing more than a very well done marketing ploy? Yes. Will I continue to happily hand over my money? Also yes. A guy just needs some little treats to get through the day.
Here are some highlights from a few of this year's locations.
Giovane Caffe (Central library location)
Melted white chocolate with cayenne pepper.
My first gamble of the season, Giovane’s Cayenne Inferno was a great concept with so much potential. Alas, the (very, very high) ratio of whipped cream to hot chocolate unfortunately meant that my chocolate drink was simply not hot, defeating the concept of it being a premium hot chocolate. Maybe they interpreted ‘hot’ a little differently: the blast of cayenne that hit the back of my mouth surely fit that description. As a fan of spices, I loved the little kick, but I can’t imagine most people would agree. All in all, a little saddened by the untapped potential in this experience.
Also, about $12 for a not-so-large drink… better purchases could have been made.
28 per cent white chocolate in steamed milk with sesame paste and earl grey.
I guarantee you’ve seen this one all over TikTok. If not, the gist is that you get a mug of white chocolate as your canvas; a side dish of charcoal, earl grey and sesame liquid as your paint and a paintbrush or two — now you can relive the trauma (and healing) of high school art class! No? Just me? Okay. Painting was so silly and fun, and while I was skeptical about how the taste would stand up, I was not disappointed. The flavours complemented each other very well, and continued to carry the healing era I had suddenly entered. It definitely tasted like a sesame-heavy tea more than a hot chocolate though, so take that as a word of warning.
70 per cent dark chocolate in oat milk with macadamia nut syrup and coconut syrup.
This one took me by surprise. If you’re into earthy, nutty tones in your warm beverages, then this is the one for you. I wasn’t expecting much, since I’ve had my fair share of mochas with “an extra pump of hazelnut syrup, please!” but this was so much more than that. This drink hit the standard for my hot chocolate festival experience: a simple hot chocolate with subtle undertones — some complex depth that can only be captured in a soup simmered on the stove for 13 hours in your grandmother’s kitchen. Many times a culinary experience is described as transcendent. I would instead describe this beverage as grounding. (Disclaimer: memories are often sweeter than reality. If you go try this one and don’t like it, don’t come after me.)
Strangely enough, the best part: the crunchy rim serving up a texture that I never knew I needed in my hot chocolate. Bonus points for the attention to detail! This is honestly one I would go back and get again.
The marshmallow pretzel guys were cute too, but that’s all they were good for. They didn’t melt in the hot chocolate, and generally it felt like they didn’t need to be there. But, at least they were cute.
Amalfi With Love - a Citrus Symphony
71 per cent dark chocolate with mango and citrus notes.
I went into this so excited, and I came out a little disappointed. Citrus and chocolate might be my favourite genre of dessert ever, so if you read the description of this drink on the website, you might be able to imagine my anticipation. I mean, to “capture the essence of the Amalfi sun”? What more would I want on a dark and dreary Vancouver evening? I rest my case. TLDR: I did not experience the Amalfi sun. Just hot chocolate with citrus syrup. The ice cream tart, by contrast, was fantastic! Stick to the gelato at this spot, I’d say.
Peter Rabbit’s Wonderland
Brown sugar and chestnut dark hot chocolate with caramel infused whipped cream.
It was difficult to see beyond the mountain of whipped cream, but I’d like to think this would be a solid hit for those of you with a sweet tooth. The brown sugar and chestnut hot chocolate and caramel whipped cream was a wonderfully rich pairing. I also really liked the caramelized carrot thing served with the hot chocolate, but I do wish there were more of those. Eat your vegetables!
Dark hot chocolate with coconut coffee.
Yum yum yum! I only went here because it’s about ten minutes from my house, but Broyé did a pretty good job at delivering what it said it would! I wasn’t exactly blown away, but the coconut, chocolate and coffee came together really well and made for a very satisfying little midday hot-girl treat. Also, talk about value? You can get a whole mochi-croissant or pastry of choice with your hot chocolate, which is much more than any of the other establishments offered. I’d go here again for the deal alone.
65 per cent dark hot chocolate with a marshmallow bomb with pop rocks!
Hearing pop rocks crackle in a hot chocolate is not something I ever imagined I would experience — and the marshmallow bomb was the cherry on top. The hot chocolate itself was not very flavourful, but this concept was one of the best I’ve seen this season (honestly, across all three seasons that I’ve participated in this hot chocolate tomfoolery). Maybe if the milk was slightly hotter, and the marshmallow bomb melted slightly faster, this one would’ve been up there with my top choices. Regardless, I’d still recommend checking it out.
The woman who made it was also very sweet, and (rightfully) very proud of her creation.