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.
This post features: Railtown Cafe, Gem Chocolates, 49th Parallel and Lucky’s Doughnuts, Chez Christophe, Schokolade Artisan Chocolates, and Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary
This was my first visit to Railtown Cafe! Tucked away in East Vancouver in a corner I didn’t know existed, I found my way one Wednesday at dusk to “Pandance With” their cocoa.
This cocoa was infused with honest-to-goodness, in-my-cup, lime leaf and chili-infused coconut milk blended with almond milk (original recipe called for dairy milk). The first sip left me with a bit of a *kick* in the back of my throat, and a light, smooth taste in my mouth.
Darker chocolate flavours, along with the aforementioned *kick*, grew more prominent throughout the hot chocolate’s consumption – this is probably because the things that actually flavoured the drink continued to sit and steep as it was drunk. To cool off the tongue, we had a chia bar with jam in lieu of the festival “whippet” cookie due to them selling out before we arrived!
Overall, I would definitely return to this funky establishment (that also does catering!) to try more of their baked goods, lunch items, and non-dairy drinks in this unassuming part of town. Recommended!
Rushing to the door 5 minutes before closing, GD and I ordered two dark chocolate versions of the final flavour at Gem Chocolates. Red chocolate lips topped this rocky-road flavoured drink, and I wish I had eaten them before they dipped beneath the surface, lending to the s’more-like flavours.
I enjoyed this not-too-sweet chocolate (that probably would have been sweeter with another chocolate) that tasted like a liquid s’more! It was being consumed on-the-go, so there are unfortunately no post-worthy photos following this initial capture!
A filling meal at the Foundation, followed by a post-dinner walk, led us to 49th Parallel’s Main Street location. This location has a wooden interior, lodge-y vibe of which I am personally a huge fan. With unreasonable impulsiveness, I ordered The Bee’s Knees in the hopes that it would top my previous 49th experience alongside a PB&J doughnut from Lucky’s.
Made of almond milk, the honey in this dark chocolate cocoa made it sweet and delicious. While I personally would have preferred a tad less of the sweet stuff, it definitely made it smooth and took away any potential dark chocolate bitterness. There were overtones of lavender that made it a bit lighter in the mouth than it otherwise might have been.
The biscotti had a mild lavender flavour with visible pieces of the plant inside it, and the white chocolate on the outside was an automatic win.
… Need I describe how delicious a jelly-covered doughnut with peanut butter filling was?
Finally, we made it eastward enough to reach Chez Christophe – an upscale chocolate and pastry establishment that impressed last year with a Fererro Rocher-type treat that was dropped into their hot chocolate. This year, I ordered their Winter White, as this flavour could be made with non-dairy milk (and sounded pretty delicious).
The orange flavours in the drink reminded me of an herbal tea in the way it almost “floated” in my mouth and lingered after I was finished each sip. There were visible bits of orange zest in the drink, and they made an otherwise very smooth white chocolate texture a little more interesting. I believe that the almond milk was a good call in stunting the sweetness of the white chocolate, and the flavours all balanced quite well.
A candied orange dipped in dark chocolate accompanied the drink, and was deliciously sweet! Dark chocolate likely helped buffer the intense sugar, but not so much that we missed out on any magic.
On the same day as Chez Christophe, my team and I ventured to a similar neighbourhood where we found Schokolade Artisan Chocolates! An enjoyable stop for the last two festivals, I was intrigued by the offerings for this year’s. I was even more intrigued by how our names were interpreted by the folks behind the counter.
I Need You!
: 100% dark chocolate. J (“George”) ordered this one (boldly, I would argue), and allowed me to give it a try. 100% not my cup of cocoa – it was so bitter that it reminded me immediately of coffee (I suppose it did contain caramel “expresso”) and was not a flavour I wished to continue indulging in!
I Want You: My (“Kathy’s”) selected flavour. I had expected something different based on the online description of this flavour – a “choose your own adventure” kind of vibe – but was somewhat frustrated when trying to order it. Clearly, in the eyes of the woman serving me, I did not understand basic instructions when it came to choosing my drink components off of the clipboard she used to cover up the menu, and when I tried to ask why the clipboard instructions didn’t match the festival description, she told me, with great exasperation, to “FOCUS”. In the end, I had an almond milk, hazelnut dark hot chocolate that reminded me of my disappointing experience at 49th Parallel (due to my own personal preferences) and a bitter taste in my from being scolded.
I Love You
: Afforded correct pronunciation of her name, M went for this one – a pomegranate white hot chocolate mind with almond milk. Topped with real pomegranate seeds and whipped cream, I took more readily to this flavour, and ended up trading with M. It tasted quite sweet and somewhat strangely fruity and tangy, like the flavours of white chocolate and fruit were battling rather than harmonizing. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but it was somewhat “unsettled” as a flavour combination.
A bitter(but mostly)sweet day: My final stop for the 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival.
Upon finding Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionery, it was obvious that this spot is a beloved neighbourhood gem: A line-up had formed outside the doors before it opened! As soon as the doors were unlocked, people scrambled for a seat at the bar and in the booths of this old-school establishment that resembled a diner with its checkered floors and traditional caps atop the heads of its employees.
Alternating between two flavours throughout the festival, Glenburn offered their Creme de Mènthe, Grasshopper pie-inspired cocoa as their final festival treat. A fan of the alcoholic grasshopper drink and a fan of chocolate, I expected to be a fan of this (even if it did have to be made with dairy milk).
Topped with white chocolate shavings and chocolate wafer crumbles, the whipped cream had a green tinge and was lightly minty in flavour. The hot chocolate beneath was itself a dark chocolate and blended with non-alcoholic Crème de Menthe, which left an “after feeling” of mint post-sip. Alongside the drink in its handsome glass was a white chocolate cookie that tied the drink’s theme and name together – it was a bit crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, a texture pattern I salivate at the mention of, thus winning my heart.
Thank-you for joining me and my friends as we explored the 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival! If you took part in any way, you were supporting a great cause and have contributed in small part (or large part) to a women’s job training program in the city’s downtown eastside. I certainly (obviously) enjoyed taking part, and hope that you have enjoyed my reviews and photographs of my adventures on my third devoted festival experience.
Until next year…