Hot Chocolate Vancouver kicks off this Saturday and, despite some setbacks imposed by provincial restrictions, the 11th iteration of the annual 30-day festival will be bigger than ever before.
Many of Vancouver’s top bakeries, patisseries, and cafes have developed creative concoctions to help brighten the damp and gloomy days of the West Coast winter season while helping to raise funds to local charitable causes like Fresh to Families and the PHS Community Services Society.
After scanning through almost 100 hot chocolate creations from roughly 40 participating locations, we’re fairly confident that you won’t go wrong with most of the selections on offer, but here are a few that we feel stand out the most.
Bellagio Hornby - Persian Rose
Although Hot Chocolate Vancouver ends on Valentine’s Day, Bellagio Hornby is one of the few participating locations that has created a romantic offering to commemorate the special day. The Persian Rose is made with layered dark hot chocolate, condensed milk, cardamom, and rosewater, then topped with whipped cream and rose petals, and served with Amaretto bites on the side.
Beta 5 - Side of Milk
Since its inception, Beta 5 co-owners Adam Chandler and Jessica Rosinski have come up with some of the country’s coolest confectionary collaborations, and for this year’s hot chocolate festival they’ve teamed up with a number of local purveyors, including comfort food connoisseurs Downlow Chicken Shack.
The Side of Milk is a 66 per cent dark chocolate blend that is infused with DL Chicken chile spice and served alongside a mini marshmallow and a delicious chile-dusted mini hot chocolate cream puff (dark chocolate custard, spiced milk chocolate chantilly, fudge sauce).
Blue Hat Bakery - Serengeti Sunset
To commemorate its first year participating in Hot Chocolate Vancouver, the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts’ Blue Hat Bakery has created a white hot chocolate that is infused with a healthy dose of antioxidant-rich rooibos tea and served with an orange and a traditional South African ginger doughnut.
Butter Baked Goods - After Eight
Inspired by the flavours of the classic holiday treat, Butter Baked Goods has developed a fun and nostalgia-inducing After Eight-flavoured hot chocolate. As you might expect from the award-winning Vancouver patisserie, Butter Baked Goods has also created a stunning accompaniment in the form of a chocolate-dipped, After Eight shortbread sandwich cookie.
Giovane Cafe - Orange You Glad I Tira-Miss-U?
Never one to shy away from creative caffeinated concoctions, Giovane Cafe has assembled the perfect ode to honour the classic Italian dessert, tiramisu. Espresso chocolate ganache, steamed milk, Valencia orange syrup, and cocoa powder combine to create a delicious dessert-themed drink that is as fun to sip as it is to say.
If that wasn’t enough, the Orange You Glad I Tira-Miss U is served with a ladyfinger biscuit topped with whipped mascarpone and garnished with candied orange.
Honolulu Cafe - Mauna La’i
If you’re looking to escape the cold in more ways than one, Honolulu Cafe has created a tropical getaway in beverage form inspired by a famous guava-based beverage brand from the eighties. The dairy-free Mauna La’i combines 70 per cent dark chocolate with guava puree, coconut milk, and coconut whipped cream, and is appropriately paired with a guava-flavoured macaroon.
Kafka’s Coffee - Have a Halva, Hava Sip
The team at Kafka’s Coffee have been serving up high-quality, single-origin-sourced coffee in Vancouver for more than a decade. For this year’s Hot Chocolate Vancouver festival, they’ve created one of the most unique offerings on our list in the Have a Halva, Hava Sip.
House-made halva is folded into a custom blend of dark and milk chocolate to create the perfect blend of sweet and savoury. The Vancouver coffee franchise has also gained significant notoriety in recent months for its selection of festive cookies, so the accompanying tahini cookie they’ve created might be reason enough to visit one of their three locations.
Uno Gelato - Biscotti Neri
This deliciously fun play on cookies and cream from Uno Gelato combines creamy, hot, extra bitter Guayaquil chocolate with a smattering of crushed Oreo cookies for a rich and creamy finish. The Biscotti Neri is topped with homemade whipped cream, crushed cookies, milk chocolate crispearls, and served with a mini red fruit beignet.