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 #1: Arctic Ice, Doughgirls
Bright and early on Thursday morning, JS and I made our way to Doughgirls – my first time at the bakery. We had a hot and cool option for flavours and both opted for icy!
We sat down in the wooden interior after staring at the piles of baked goods we could have selected from for a snack. Finally, we made our orders. To my delight, I was able to have my Arctic Ice with soy milk – it was topped with a dollop of whipped cream that tasted like a liquid candy cane that was very light and delicious!
The drink itself was like a warm candy cane, with a hint of coolness because there was a cold ball of white chocolate with peppermint dropped into the hot milk. What would have otherwise been an overwhelmingly sweet drink was made manageable by the delightful tiny teacup in which it was served. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, this is your jam right here.
It was served with a ball of what I presume is the same that was used to flavour the drink as well as a chocolate biscuit that was chewy and a bit crunchy with sugar crystals on top.
Stop #2: I Am Coconut Over You, Terra Breads
I was fortunate to visit two stops on this first day of the festival and I made my way to one of my tried-and-true favourite venues: Terra Breads.
With their non-dairy milk options and delicious drink pairings, this is always a great stop for the festival, and this year proved the same. While I knew I should have gone the soy route for this type of flavour combo, I went with almond milk in my coconut dark hot chocolate to try to reduce the sweetness of my day overall. The almond milk did not absorb the coconut and dark chocolate flavours into a smooth blend, but it did allow them to stand out on their own while keeping the drink from being too sweet.
The macaroons that accompanied the drink were ah-mah-zing. One was dark chocolate and one was lemon, and their flavours were so bold and sweet and delicious that I wished they hadn’t ended.
AB ordered the white chocolate matcha option and enjoyed an abundance of green goodness.
Stop #3: Talking Dirty With Sungod, Koko Monk Chocolates
I was quite excited to make this stop, as the past few months have involved a strengthening of my bond with and appreciation of Koko Monk and all that Paul has to offer through his business. Its small and cozy interior in a lovely neighbourhood in Kitsilano has become a place I bring people to to show them magic.
This week’s offering of a combination of black olives, lime, and chilli was not something I knew how to plan for, but it all panned out in unexpectedly delicious ways. I ordered mine with almond milk and found that the lime was the most prominent flavour, but found surprise chunks of black olive that complemented the drink very nicely throughout. There was a kick of chilli in the back of the throat as the flakes from the top made their way into the drink.
The drink was paired with dark chocolate parmesan toffee bark, which sounds strange but – as usual – made all the sense in the world once it was being consumed.
Stop #4: Cherry O, Cherry O Baby!, Chocolate Arts
Friday’s second stop was risky – we were all sugared up but felt bold and ready to try one more flavour. We made our way to Chocolate Arts with my comrades eyeing the red wine flavours in one festival option and me contemplating whether another cup in a day was worthwhile.
In the end, of course, I opted to purchase one, a decision helped along by the employees’ adaptability in using a non-dairy milk to reduce the overall dairy intake. I went for a combination that was winning over my tastebuds just through reading it – a cherry pannacotta layer on the bottom of a dark hot chocolate paired with a cherry dark-chocolate brownie. WHAT.
My tastebuds were not left disappointed – the cherry layer of the drink with real cherry chunks was delicious when scooped up with a spoonful of hot chocolate. The brownie had cherry chunks as well and was enjoyable the day after, once my tastebuds had returned to normal levels of sugar sensitivity.
The folks who joined me tried the red wine ice cream option, which is a version of a classic festival treat for this location:
Stop #5: Hot Pea Pea, Mink
Ah, yes, Mink. In the past, always a strange, unusual, and exciting stop to make in the festival. This year is no different.
As someone who is always on the hunt for non-dairy options during the festival, I was excited by the opportunity to try the Hot Pea Pea flavour at Mink, because it was made with pea milk!
The flavour was strange and familiar to me – it reminded me of vegan protein powders I have used that contain pea protein. It has a chalky sort of texture, but I actually found it quite nice with the chocolate; it tasted mostly like a normal hot chocolate until you swallowed and the unfamiliar pea-milk texture lingered and made you wonder, “What was that?”
SF and ND went for the (X)T(X)RUM(X)P(X) offering, which included an American flag in a piece of jerky alongside a rum-ball hot chocolate.
Until next time,