When it launched in 2011, The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival was the first city-wide festival of its kind in the world. This January it returns for its 7th year, bigger and better than ever, with Vancouver’s best chocolatiers, pastry shops, bakeries, cafes, gelato and ice cream makers coming together to make the humble hot chocolate hotter than it has ever been before.
This Festival is a fundraiser for the Downtown Eastside women’s job training
program of the PHS Community Services Society and East Van Roasters.
Stop #21: Pretty in Pink, Bel Café
Always a lovely stop to find a seat at one of the daintily decorated tables in Bel!
The flavour for this half of the festival had no non-dairy option if I wanted the full experience, so I braced myself and dove into the rose-infused beverage first thing in the morning.
Atop the thick whipped cream were crunchy pieces of freeze-dried raspberry, which added a nice tang and texture as they mixed in with sips of milk. The milk itself was very rosy in flavour! Not too potent, but certainly not subtle. The floral taste lingered after each sip, which meant a bit of rose for each bite of crumbly vanilla shortbread.
Stop #22: Trip to Lachua, Guatemala, East Van Roasters
Stopping by one of the fundraising partners of the festival is one of my favourite parts of each festival that I’ve attended. EVR is tucked away and has these rustic, authentic vibes going on with employees that match the vibe.
I had my chocolate with soy milk and enjoyed a very smooth, cardamom-y experience. It was served with a cornbread cookie, which was amazing.
Stop #23: Island Float, Gem Chocolates
I had barely walked into the store when Glen told me that the cardamom in his hot chocolate was infused with the dairy milk, which he knew was not my preferred milk base. Almost before I could respond, he offered to mix the cardamom into a non-dairy option for me, so I went for almond milk!
AB was with me, and her thoughts were, “I put one in my mouf, and I think, ‘That tastes good,’ and then I put more in my mouf.” So if that tells you anything… The drink was a good time.
I really enjoyed the almond milk, and found the cardamom subtle with periodic peaks of flavour, especially towards the bottom of the drink. The lemon meringue pairing dusted with cardamom was also lovely!
Stop #24: Hot Chocolate Flight, Koko Monk
This was worth the wait and the temporary seating in the rain!
Koko Monk has since had to stock itself with more flight mugs due to the overwhelming success of their hot chocolate flights during this festival season. I went with MS to try two familiar flavours and one new one – the Cosmic Rose.
The Sin and Salvation and Cosmic Rose may be two of my favourite flavours out of all of the ones I tried this year! It was subtly rosy and thickly caramel-y. I heard from more than one person that this flavour was their favourite. The flight this day was paired with root vegetables in dark chocolate.
As for the hot chocolate flight experience overall, I think it is not only incredibly photogenic, but also a great talking point and flavour experience to have on one’s own or especially to share with friends.
Stop #25: Mayan Fire, Doughgirls
There was no non-dairy option for this second flavour at Doughgirls, but I decided to go for it and risk the spiciness – it did not pan out well for me!
I couldn’t handle the spice, and found little relief in the spicy cookie. If this is your kind of thing – spicy food or drink, that is – then you would almost certainly love this smooth hot chocolate. However, as someone who is very spice-averse, I was not able to finish either the drink or the cookie.
Stop #26: Breakfast in Burnaby, Chez Christophe
Having not yet indulged in breakfast, I figured the best way to remedy this and fulfill my hot chocolate goals for the festival, I should stop by and get a Breakfast in Burnaby from Chez Christophe.
This was a very sweet hot chocolate that was made with soy milk to more closely match the original whole milk called for in the recipe. There was caramel drizzle and pecans on top, and the texture of those made the drink more closely resemble French toast, as it was meant to. However, I found it too rich to fully match my vision of the breakfast treat, that is until I dipped the brioche bun it was paired with into the drink. Of course, having some bread added to the mix brought it as close to French toast as I could imagine!
Bonus: I took their other flavour to go, and it was a dark chocolate with pineapple jelly and coconut on top, which over the day, became a solid layer of gelatinous pineapple-coconut flavour that you almost had to chew as you drank (it was delicious).
Stop #27: Deep In The Heart Of Texas, Bella Gelatería
A bittersweet day: The last day of the Hot Chocolate Festival.
This year’s festival was a bit of a different one, because I was celebrating Valentine’s Day and a special birthday at a distance while also indulging in the final moments of one of my favourite events in this city that I’ve called home for many years! With mixed feelings and a tight schedule and challenging parking circumstances, CG and I dashed (in rush hour) to Bella Gelateria once more.
At first, I thought this earthy Vancouver Sea Salt hot chocolate resembled salted caramel, but this was just because I expect caramel when I taste chocolate and salt together. There were some sneaky fruity notes that floated around the mouth, and a “woodsy” taste of sorts? It was tough for our amateur mouths to detect with ease.
The bar it came with was very sticky and chewy, but definitely enjoyable (not recommended for faces with braces) and not overly sweet. Despite this not having a non-dairy option (alas!), I was able to enjoy the flavours and end on a good note for the 7th Hot Chocolate Festival.