Everyone's familiar with classic hot chocolate, but the launch event for this year’s YYC Hot Chocolate Festival introduced Calgarians to new takes of the traditional taste, infusing flavours like peach, root beer and chili spice.
Running throughout the month of February, the festival features several homemade hot chocolate creations from cafés, restaurants and chocolatiers across Calgary — each vendor competing to win the Best Hot Chocolate of 2018. The festival acts as a fundraiser for Meals on Wheels, a not-for-profit organization that provides meal services to any person in the city, regardless of their age or circumstances.
Analog Coffee, who have been a part of the fundraiser for a few years now, were one of five vendors featured at the launch on the 28th of January. Their creation, the Thai Chili Chelada, features a “mild flavour of Thai chili heat,” bringing sweet and spicy together as one.
Chris Tait, the café’s quality assurance manager, describes the drink as, “something a little different ... with some interesting flavors that paired really nicely with dark chocolate.”
At the other end of the line, there’s Waves Alberta. This year, their operations manager, Ramona Rendle, incorporated her love for peach melba into her hot chocolate. Topped with raspberry whipping cream and a melba wafer, its sweet and fruity taste was a hit at the launch.
“I know there's a lot of tough competition out here,” she said.
The drink has gotten a positive reception so far. “I don't think anyone's going to be doing too [many] fruity peaches, so I'm hoping we do really well.”
The Chocolate Lab used their expertise in the chocolate industry by blending dark and milk chocolate together. Co-owner of The Chocolate Lab, Eva Choi, created the Midnight Casanova to highlight the most important ingredient of the classic treat.
"This is chocolate at its most amazing, because it just tastes of chocolate. There [are] no other distractions," she said.
Boxcar Café took a more seasonal approach by creating the Gingerbread Hot Chocolate. The café stuck to a winter theme, adding notes of allspice and nutmeg to the drink.
Matt French, a manager at Boxcar Café, revealed how they drastically changed their theme from last year's drink, a Mayan piece with "lots of flare and spices," to a more tempered flavour to go along with the cooler weather. The café also offers gluten and dairy free options of the savoury creation.
Family Squeezed Lemonade/Milk Milk Lemonade took the crowd by surprise when they presented their Root Beer White Hot Chocolate Float. They combined their family's homemade root beer recipe with white chocolate to create this unique flavour. It includes toppings of cotton candy, swirl sticks, crushed root beer barrels and their family’s gourmet root beer ice pop to the drink.
"Well, we love to do interesting and different.We like them to be really pretty, but they have to be delicious first. So we took our very favourite family treat, which is homemade root beer, and then we blended it into a white hot chocolate," says Jennifer Andrews of Family Squeezed Lemonade/Milk Milk Lemonade.
Joining these five vendors at the launch was Lindsay Amadio, marketing manager of McLeod Law. Both the firm and Granary Road are the event’s sponsors.
The event raises money for the Calgary Meals on Wheels’ delivery system, which serves about 750 Calgarian homes a day and strives to provide quality, nutritious and affordable meals for those who need it.
The launch was just the start for the month-long event, in which even more hot chocolate creations will be featured. To participate in the festival, a $1 donation is required for each drink. Spirited drinks are $2.
- By Solaya Huang and Tori St. Clair