Making the Month of Love Extra Hot!
review and photos by Celine De Capite
Hot, spicy or rich, I’m not talking about your dream man-I’m talking about hot chocolate. The Tingle of warm hot cocoa down your throat is one of the world’s greatest experiences. Hot chocolate invites joy, it brings me back to my childhood.
Every February, Meals on Wheels Calgary hosts YYC Hot Chocolate Fest (Feb. 1-28). The festival takes place all around the city allowing different vendors to take part in the steamy competition (pun intended). Each of the 50+ vendors create uniquely-decadent chocolaty concoctions.
However, these hot chocolates are crafted for the bon viveur. Even though Edmonton had their own hot chocolate fest which tragically failed after a year – YYC hot chocolate fest is worth the trip south!
I decided to try out five of the specialty crafted hot chocolates. I could not possibly drink all five, so I invited my parents to be guest judges. Each judge had different goals: my mom wanted to find the most sophisticated cocoa, my dad was all about the eloquent descriptions (and making sure each one lived up to their promised standards), and I searched for decadence. We judged the delectable drinks on their overall flavour, presentation, aromatic qualities, inventiveness and classiness.
When Doves Cry Lavender White Hot Chocolate ($8.45)
Neighbour Coffee @nhbrcoffee
“A rich and floral lavender hot chocolate.”
This hot chocolate’s presentation was a spectacle – towering lavender whip cream, sprinkled with white chocolate shavings. And not to mention the decadent floral aroma – it was a wonderful treat.
But the taste was quite intense, and it was not at all as well-rounded. My mom suggested she could have grabbed lavender tea and steamed milk and created the drink herself, and then charged me almost nine dollars to drink it.
I didn’t hate the drink as much as my mom, I was just disappointed in how little chocolate I tasted. After all, it is a hot chocolate competition and there was not a trace of white chocolate creaminess. I was hoping for a indulgent buttery creaminess that would have elevated the floral notes. And if more white chocolate was present, it would have lived up to its description- my dad agreed.
I would have to say the best part of this drink was the lavender whip cream – in a similar way to Edmonton: the best part is the river valley, other than that what is there?
Bergamont Honey White Hot Chocolate ($6.65)
Monogram Coffee @monogramco
“Valrhona white chocolate infused with caramelized honey and bergamot topped with whipped cream and caramelized honey drizzle.”
Monogram Coffee is a local coffee shop and coffee roaster. They have three locations across Calgary and an online store where you can order your favourite whole bean coffee.
The Hot chocolate at Monogram Coffee was exactly the opposite to that of Neighbour Coffee: the whipped cream presentation was very disappointing and plain. But what it lacked in presentation was undoubtedly made up for in flavour. The drink started off with creamy white chocolate and ended with a palatable bergamot lemon-lime flavor – it resembled a lavish French custard. The drink was well bodied and balanced; all the notes came together to form a stupendous white hot chocolate- that I still can’t stop thinking about.
If I had to critique one aspect of the drink it would be the size. Even though I only tried a portion of the drink, I believe it would be quite overpowering to finish a whole cup. Both of my parents pointed out that they could not imagine finishing this drink because of how rich it was.
Flaming Snowflake Hot Chocolate ($5.83)
Vendome Café @vendomeyyc
“Valrhona chocolate, steamed milk, house made chili flake syrup, pinch of salt”
Vendome Café is a French style café serving breakfast dinner and lunch, along with sumptuous drinks like wine, bourbon, gin and even absinthe. Vendome is located in the trendy neighbourhood of Kensington.
I am a big fan of Vendome Café and I was quite eager to try their hot chocolate concoction. They put the “chili” in a cold winter’s day. I was so excited about this hot cocoa from Vendome because it was the hot cocoa embodiment of my favourite chocolate bar. For one of my favourite guilty pleasures is a chocolate bar from Lint – it combines hot chili with dark chocolate. It’s splendid. And there is nothing I love more than the romantic history between chili and chocolate.
The two bold flavors come together to shape a decadent and rich cup of hot cocoa. As you sip, the rich dark Valrhona chocolate lands on your pallet as the chili spices the back of your throat. If that doesn’t sound good to you it even can be ordered with smooth Kentucky bourbon. Since we tried this hot cocoa when in-person dining was unavailable (because of provincial restrictions) we could not order the burboned hot chocolate. My dad was severely disappointed that the version was unavailable.
This hot chocolate was sophisticated and suave. The disappointment was the presentation- a sexy drink like this should look sexy at the very least. But, as the cheapest one on the list, definitely worth it.
Orange Blossom Bliss Hot Chocolate ($9.66)
The Coup @thecoupcalgary
“A rich creamy vegan chocolat chaud. Made with decedent french soy-free dark chocolate, organic coconut milk, orange blossom and clove marshmallow.”
One of my favourite qualities about hot chocolate is the steam that carries a rich cocoa fragrance.
The Coup’s hot chocolate not only carried a prolific cocoa scent but held notes of orange – similar to the smell of Christmas chocolate oranges. Topped with a candied orange peel and a clove marshmallow, the presentation was modest. The taste encompassed notes of coconut and chocolate with very small hints of orange. I was disappointed by how little orange I tasted, I do wish it was stronger.
Both my parents liked The Coup’s cocoa but they found it tasted more like coconuts than anything else. This was not a bad note at all, but it did not live up to the description provided on the YYC Hot chocolate fest website (mentioned above). I was also quite disappointed with the cost of this drink. As the most expensive drink of those I sampled I expected a lot more.
Butterbeer Hot Chocolate ($6.30)
Euphoria Café @euphoriacafe
“We are taking you on a journey to Hogwarts! A creamy delicious in-house made blend of melted chocolate, butterscotch, butter, and steamed milk. The final touch, a magic wand (pocky) and sapphire sprinkles on top to bring the magic alive.”
Euphoria Café is a quaint modern café located in the community of Varsity in Calgary’s north west. They serve a variety of brunch items and pride themselves in serving Rosso coffee. Additionally, they sell fresh bagels and bread, and various novelty items such as model aircrafts.
Having read the Harry Potter series and tasting the butterbeer at Universal Studios, I was quite excited for this hot chocolate – my expectations were high.
The hot chocolate was served with a pocky stick as a wand, “magical” sapphire sprinkles and a milk swirl. This was by far the most creative presentation out of all five drinks. They tried to imitate the idea of magic, and I thought this was creative. The smell that wafted up smelt like Irish cream liquor (even though it’s non spirited). This drink was also the most creamy. The buttery flavour was very prevalent, but to my surprise it was not rich at all.
However, I found the drink lacked a strong chocolate note. The creamy butterscotch took centre stage rather than the chocolate. Regardless, butterscotch and chocolate are two very strong flavours and I quite enjoyed how they combined them.
This was for sure my dad’s favourite drink. My mom and I were not as impressed with the flavour and balance. I was also not impressed by the overall experience at Euphoria. The small coffee shop had a covid max capacity of 10 people – there were maybe 20 to 30 people shoved in a small space and I felt really uncomfortable picking up my drink.
Best In Flavour
Bergamont Honey White Hot Chocolate -Monogram Coffee
Best In Presentation
When Doves Cry Lavender White Hot Chocolate -Neighbour Coffee
Best Aromatic Qualities
Orange Blossom Bliss Hot Chocolate -The Coup
Butterbeer Hot Chocolate -Euphoria Café
Best Classic Take
Flaming Snowflake Hot Chocolate –Vendome Café
Our Overall Ranking
#1 Monogram, #2 Vendome, #3 The Coup, #3 Euphoria, #5 Neighbour.
YYC Hot Chocolate Fest is a great way to explore Calgary and support local vendors. Nevertheless, the taste bud tickling journey will cost you. The hot chocolates ranged in price from 5 to 10 dollars for a cup of chocolaty goodness. But, the unique combinations and spirit options are absolutely worth the price. If you are going to indulge yourself I would also recommend downloading the YYC Hot chocolate fest app. It will guide you to the nearest hot chocolate based on your location. The festival runs till the end of February. And really, what’s not to love about hot chocolate?
PS I apologize to all Edmonton readers: you do have to drive down south to grab these delectable drinks.
What can I say… even in the hot chocolate battle of Alberta, Calgary wins!