Explore the city and its flavours
// Leanne Kriz

Black sesame, lavender, and salted caramel with rosemary are generally not flavours of hot chocolate you see on the menu of your local coffee shop, but at Vancouver’s 2nd Annual Hot Chocolate Festival, hosted by City Food magazine, these are the norm amongst the dozens of other wild flavours on offer. After the huge success of the first Hot Chocolate Festival, Rhonda May, the coordinator of the event, says that main push to continue for a second year was due to the many requests from the public.

May explains that the Festival began because, as far as they knew, “no one had done a city-wide Hot Chocolate Festival before, so it was a different idea to try.” Not only that, but “Vancouver has some of the most talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs in the world, using the best ingredients, and there was not enough attention being given to that.”

This year there are 13 different locations, cafés and chocolate shops alike, who are participating in the festival by offering a rotating variety of flavours over the course of one month. The festival began mid-January and ends on Feb. 14. A list of the different venues taking part in the festival can be found on the website ( as well as the different flavours which festival-goers have the opportunity to experience.

One of these shops is Bella Gelateria, a handcrafted gelato shop on the corner of Burrard St. and West Cordova. They are featuring salted caramel, Italian honey nougat and hazelnut, and macadamia nut flavours, all of which are accompanied with a complimentary slice of banana bread. Bella Gelateria’s specialty is handcrafted gelato but has been chosen to take part in the festival because of the fine quality hot chocolates they serve: “We put a lot of care into our hot chocolates, we use organic milk, and Michel Cluziel chocolate,” explains Tyler Pletzer, an employee of Bella Gelateria.

Beyond trying the different flavours, real hot chocolate enthusiasts can also take part in the Online Photo Contest, which will automatically enter each contestant in a draw to win various gift certificates from the participating businesses, as well as the opportunity to win a Festival Pass to the 2013 Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival. All photos entered must be of either the hot chocolate itself, or of you and your friends enjoying your drinks.

Young and old alike are encouraged to join, as May explains: “Almost all other beverage festivals involve alcohol, and are therefore restricted to adults only. This is one that the whole family can enjoy, while at the same time supporting a neighbourhood business.” Furthermore, all proceeds of the festival go towards Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and its food services programs.

As the festival nears its end on Valentine’s Day, it allows people an opportunity to take out their significant other for a romantic date, or simply for some cheer. As May puts it, “Nearly everyone loves chocolate, and in January, when the holiday season is over, Valentine’s Day seems a long
ways away, and the Vancouver weather is dark, wet and a little depressing, we can all use some cheering up.”

//Leanne Kriz, writer
//Graphics by Kira Campbell

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