Each year, the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival brings together cafes, confectionaries, and restaurants to create specialty hot chocolate beverages to fundraise for a great cause. This year, proceeds of the festival will be going towards supporting the Downtown Eastside Women’s Job Training Program of the PHS Community Services Society and East Van Roasters. Each year, I join this win-win-win situation by dropping in to every possible location, tasting delicious drinks and snacks, reviewing my stops, and supporting this superb cause.
On Thursday morning, PSYC 325 reading in hand, I made my way to an annual all-star for the festival: Thomas Haas.
Thomas Haas has always been an all-star in my books (and in those of the patient individuals waiting in lines that stretch out the door each year) because of their customer service, atmosphere, and of course… The flavours.
This year, after conferring with the staff for a few minutes, I decided upon a soy milk “Mumbai Meets Paris” – soy, because we thought that absorbing the chai spices would be better than letting them roam free in an almond-milk drink (as almond milk tends to let wild flavours do).
My first sip was immediately reminiscent of those chocolate oranges (Terry’s?) that you smash on the table to split into little chocolaty orange slices around Christmas time. As a fan of both chocolate, orange, and their combined flavour, I was a fan of this drink right away.
It had a full flavour without come across as too heavy or super rich. Sometimes when my mouth is full of flavour, it is because sugar is taking over – not with this drink, which kept its sugar at a perfect level so that the darker chocolate was not bitter, but also making a morning cocoa run less unreasonable.
The accompanying praline had a distinctive flavour that I had trouble placing at first… My notes have an exclamation point where I realized that it tasted like crunchy Nutella, which was obviously a positive attribute of the treat.
Highly recommended, especially for the little Grand Marnier chantilly (which, I learned, is fancy whipped cream) finish.
HoCho 7: Give Yourself to the Dark Side, Gem Chocolates
Ah, Gem Chocolates.
Each year, I make multiple stops here, because the store’s head honcho changes the flavour up four times over the course of the festival and always has exquisite treats – both in design and taste – to accompany the drinks. We also argue about my preference for dairy-free drinks each time, but I appreciate the concern for my flavour experience.
Unfortunately, on this particular festival day, the tail-end of my sickness was causing all taste experiences to go haywire or downhill. I could not stomach much food throughout the day, and I was only able to complete parts of my festival goodies. My comrades spoke highly of their whipped-cream-topped dairy and lactose-free hot chocolates, while I worked away at mine ever-so-slowly. Definitely enjoyable, but not to the degree I will be able to enjoy the next flavours (you must expect great things from the confections that this man is able to produce!).
Heading downtown to sample Bella Gelatería’s annual flavours is a treat I have enjoyed each time. Last year, I was somewhat frustrated by the pre-mixed dairy drinks, as I was unable to sample the magical creations in the way they were meant to be experienced. This year, they created an exclusively almond-milk drink made with peppermint, which I tried!
In all honesty, this particular drink and treat combination was a bit underwhelming, as I know that this location is able to create magical drinks and foods. It was a lovely dark hot chocolate with peppermint tones throughout, but it was not spectacular! The other flavours (7 more in total, between two locations) look extremely unique and crafty, and I might have to try a bit of a dairy one to see just how creative they have managed to get this year.
Overall, enjoyable, but not as special as those other flavours look to be.
HoChos 9, 10: It’s A Clusterfluff
and The Voices in My Head Tell Me It Ain’t No B.S.
, Mink Chocolates
Mink Chocolates was not on my list last year, but I felt drawn to the strange names and delicious-looking descriptions of this year’s treats.
I was soon informed of just what a “sparkle stick” was that accompanied the Clusterfluff creation – it was literally a sparkling stick! It made sense with the drink due to the torched marshmallow floating inside it. That beverage was deliciously sweet (made with almond milk) and made of the same chocolate as that of Bel Cafe’s 801 drink. The marshmallow added some unique sweetness, though.
On the other hand, the B.S. drink reminded me of Soirette’s yam? Sweet potato? drink done last year, but with a new kind of squash! Certain vegetables in chocolate drinks make sense, my friends – this was one of them. It added an earthy sweetness to the dark chocolate and almond milk that couldn’t be expected, but was pleasantly surprising. I would definitely recommend trying it (and if you like smoked oysters, than all the better?).
Finally, we reach Sunday. We ventured out to Soirette to sample both of their hot chocolate offerings for the festival. Extremely different flavours based on fruits, but both amazing. I walked away with a new-found appreciation for this location after some sub-par customer service experiences in the past (thanks to those that worked today and made us feel like friends!).
The Peach Perfect was white chocolate with peachy tones and lavendar on top – it was very sweet, but was super delicious and the soy milk worked well with it, really making it a full-mouth experience. Its accompanying peach macaron was so great I can barely put words to it! It did not have a creamy type of filling, but rather seemed like a peach jelly, and tasted fresher than you might expect in a macaron.
The Sourpuss, on the other hand, was mostly a standard hot chocolate on the inside, until the topping – a sour berry and dark chocolate mixture – sank through the foam and mixed its way into the drink. This was a much darker drink but was a nice complement to its sweeter sibling. The coconut truffle was chocolaty on the inside and had a great crunch before hitting the soft flavour within.
One of my favourite stops, so far!
Until next time…