Hot chocolate!!!! Hooooot chocolate. Oh, hot chooocolate.
Yup, just saying it makes me happy. If you know me, you know that hot chocolate is one of the many avenues to my heart. Over the years I’ve put my own spin on a variety of recipes (I have to say my favourite is whisking in a teaspoon of peanut butter), but I would definitely consider myself a fair judge when it comes to trying hot chocolate.
When I heard that the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest had just kicked off, my heart rate rocketed higher than if you chug a sugary cup of goodness too fast. This is my calling!
The YYC Hot Chocolate Fest is an annual city-wide contest where local vendors can enter a feature hot chocolate that will be judged by customers over the course of a month. There are three categories that can be won: best hot chocolate, best spirited hot chocolate (with alcohol), and the hot chocolate that donates the most money to charity a.k.a. "Cup that Runneth Over." Guidelines include that every hot chocolate must donate at least one dollar to charity or, if it’s spirited, at least two dollars.
Across Calgary, there are over 80 locations with a hot chocolate on display, meaning I had a hefty load ahead of me (especially with each hot chocolate’s price ranging up to $8, $12 if it’s spirited), so I decided I needed to consult a professional.
This is where Lamose comes in.
Lamose is a brand that sells double-walled steel mugs (among other steel cups and tumblers) in Calgary that features custom engraving on their products. If I want to be trying lots of hot chocolates, A) I want to reduce my environmental impact from all the disposable cups and lids I would receive, and B), what better professional to consult than a brand that is completely dedicated to giving you the best beverage experience.
After consulting with Lamose (and the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest App), we came up with the top locations to hit in Calgary, and they equipped me with a steel mug to keep my hot chocolates warm and reduce waste all at the same time. I went out with Cam Eng (my photographer and co-taster for the day) where we set off to find the perfect hot chocolate! Thanks Cam for documenting all the hot chocolate photos for this blog.
This is the categories we decided to judge each hot chocolate on:
- TASTE (1 being nasty, 10 being fantabulous)
- TEMPERATURE (1 being luke-warm, 10 being scaldingly undrinkable hot)
-PRESENTATION (1 looks super ugly, 10 looks like a work of art)
- CREATIVITY (1 being a basic hot chocolate, 10 being something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
- EXPERIENCE (This goes beyond the hot chocolate itself, but the overall atmosphere created by ordering this. 1 is would not recommend, 10 is an great experience)
- VALUE (Is the cost worth the hot chocolate? Did I feel like I got my value’s worth?)
So with that scale, off we went:
WAVES COFFEE HOUSE- Cherry Bomb Hot Chocolate:
“The Cherry Bomb is a cherry explosion with a bit of heat. The drink is made from our Belgian dark chocolate chips melted down into milk and Cherry & Cayenne pepper syrup. This delicious drink is topped with whip cream and garnished with chili pepper flakes and a maraschino cherry. This drink is best with milk but is also great as a vegan friendly drink with the choice of almond, oat, soy or coconut milk.”
Value: 4/10 (Price was $6.85)
You know those cherry bomb chocolates that your grandparents would always treat you with (you know, the kind with the liquid cherry flavour in the center)? Yep, this tastes SO MUCH like one of those… But wait… is that… spice? Although this didn’t taste very spicy, the cayenne pepper syrup kicks you in the throat a bit (just enough to tickle). It’s suuuuper sweet, so if you like sweet, this is for you. The presentation resembles a cute traditional hot chocolate with a cherry on top (plus some chili flakes) but the cherry sank because we took too long to drink it. I personally would prefer my hot chocolate hotter, but if you don’t want to wait to drink it or risk burning your mouth, this is the one. The barista seemed excited to make it for us and even washed our Lamose mug out for us. Overall, I’m glad I tried it, but wouldn’t order it again.
GOOD EARTH COFFEE HOUSE- Caramel Mocha:
“Caramel, Chocolate…and Coffee. What more could you want in a hot chocolate? Topped with caramel drizzle.”
Temperature: 7/10 (hot but drinkable)
Value: 7/10 (Price was $6.85)
Not gonna lie, despite this being a super simple caramel mocha, it was so good! I loved how it’s a good every-day drink that I would order on a daily basis. It wasn’t too sweet (the chocolate taste was of a darker chocolate) and the espresso did a good job of adding a grounding flavour to take away from the high notes of caramel. The caramel wasn’t overwhelming and it was overall simply delicious! However, I was disappointed that the drink didn’t look like the photo (no caramel drizzle) and the baristas working didn’t know what to make until I showed them the contest website and they had to call a manager to ask what to do.
THE BLACK SHEEP- Holy Smokes!
“Holy smokes! Is a smooth and smokey BBQ sauce hot chocolate created with Swiss dark chocolate topped with a candied jalapeño whipped cream and bits of crispy bacon. Satisfy your inner cowboy! Tip: if you like hot stuff, ask our barista for a slice of that candied jalapeño on your whipped cream. Holy Smokes! is kind of gluten free, definitely not vegan, absolutely not sugar free, certainly not dairy free and most assuredly delicious!”
Value: 4/10 (Price was $8.00ish)
Mmmmmm, what a different take on hot chocolate. I totally understand how this hot chocolate got its name because it is definitely super smokey and reminds me of being at a BBQ. The jalapeno whipped cream was extremely mind and tasted almost entirely like regular whipped cream, but the bacon bits helped to pair a bit of salty with the sweet richness of the hot chocolate. This was by far the thickest and richest hot chocolate I tried, and couldn’t even drink half because it was just so much! However, that didn’t take away from the experience as it was very delicious for a non-traditional take on a traditional winter treat. When having this, if you like spice I definitely recommend you get the candied jalapeno on top- it kind of tastes like a sweet pickle and is extremely spicy but pairs surprisingly well with the richness of the whipped cream and the sweet hot chocolate. We had to wait a few minutes for the whipped cream to be made, but it was exciting to know it was as fresh as it gets. Overall, a super different take on hot chocolate but a rich balance of sweet and salty, spicy and creamy.
THE BLOCK KITCHEN AND LOUNGE- Malibu Coconut Bliss
“Steamed Coconut Milk, Butterscotch Chocolate Chip, Toasted Coconut Flakes & Marshmallows. Drizzled with Chocolate Syrup.”
This was an interesting stop because it didn’t taste like any other hot chocolate we tried. It was definitely the lightest hot chocolate we tried, which fits the tropical theme of “Malibu Coconut Bliss.” The chocolate taste wasn’t very prominent (and this showed in the light colour, too) and instead it tasted strongly of boxed coconut milk. One thing to note for this is it got better as we drank it. We stirred in the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes so it was entirely combined with the hot chocolate instead of sitting on top, and these flavours melted in as we continued to drink it. If you’re not a texture person, this isn’t the drink for you. The coconut flakes and marshmallows add a lot of texture to the hot chocolate, and you almost find yourself chewing it while drinking it, if that makes sense. If you want a lighter choice that won’t overpower you with sweetness (and may even give you wanderlust to see a hot destination), this is the one for you.
HEXAGON CAFÉ- PB+J Hot Chocolate
“Romeo and Juliet. Bonnie and Clyde. Mark Anthony and Cleopatra - all examples of an epic story of love and romance. These stories shall be told and retold for the rest of time. However, they all pale in comparison to the greatest love story of all time: Peanut Butter and Jelly. Hexagon Café is now presenting liquid joy materialized in the form of our PB+J Hot Chocolate. Creamy, smooth peanut butter is combined with our luxurious hot chocolate; decorated with a crunchy honey graham cracker rim, then topped off with a whipped cream and strawberry jam drizzle and garnished with mini Reese’s cups. Come and taste destiny.”
Temperature: 8/10 (perfect for drinking)
Value: 10/10 (Price was $6.83)
ALERT ALERT, YOU NEED TO TRY THIS! Okay, I’ll admit it, I think I found my personal winner. This hot chocolate is a nostalgic take on a childhood peanut-butter and jelly sandwich, and I have to admit they couldn’t have made it better. The presentation was beautiful, the temperature was hot, the saltiness of the peanut butter offset the sweetness of the jelly perfectly, and overall it was very artfully crafted. My favourite part of this hot-chocolate was that it wasn’t too rich, in fact, it was the first hot chocolate that I would have happily drank the whole thing. Drinking this brought back childhood memories that I forgot I even had, and was a fun take on a well known drink (especially suiting the environment, considering it’s being served at a board-game cafe). The combination of creativity mixed with traditional goodness made this the winner in my heart, and a special shout-out to the barista Daniel for making the experience great. (P.S. my advice when drinking this is to eat the Reese's Peanut-butter Cups first or else they’ll fall through the whipped cream and sink). I would go back to Hexagon Café just for this drink.
LINA’S ITALIAN MARKET- Sapori di Sicila
“A gourmet thick and smooth 70% Madagascar Dark Chocolate with Italian Pistachio cream. Topped with homemade whipped cream, a snowfall of Bronte Pistachio and finished off with a Pistachio drizzle. A daydream for every chocolate lover.”
Value: 10/10 (Price was $5.99)
If you’re on the hunt for a classic traditional hot chocolate, here it is. We had the opportunity to speak with a woman who worked at the store where she informed us that this hot chocolate actually takes over 45 minutes to make each day (don’t worry, you don’t have to wait that long for it to be served) because they hand stir it as real chocolate is slowly melted in, making it a rich choice that’s not too sweet. You can tell this hot chocolate is made with quality ingredients, and overall proves as an extremely creamy, rich, and delicious. This hot chocolate isn’t trying to be anything it’s not, and it shines through as a genuine quality dependable choice. The pistachio cream is perfectly made, and pairs well with the chocolate (a combo taken right from Italy), which you need to enjoy with a spoon before you can even reach the hot chocolate. This was definitely in my top choices for hot chocolates and I would highly recommend trying it if you get the chance.
Overall, it was a sweet journey filled with sugary goodness and I’d definitely recommend getting out there and trying them for yourself.
(With extra marshmallows) Cheers,