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It's hot chocolate season - favorites?

  • r

So, anything new and wonderful out there?

Fonda makes a spicy hot chocolate which is better than the desserts as a way to end a meal. Big bowl of mild chocolate and not overassertive chili spice. There's just a wonderful warmth in the mouth and not a burn.

Any other places? Spice not a requirement.

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  1. I like the hot chocolate & mocha at the Blue Bottle Coffee stand on Linden St @ Hayes. They melt estate grown, dark chocolate bars into them. Not too sweet, which is part of the reason I like them.

    BB doesn't offer a lot of sitting space though, so I get it to go and walk over to the new Hayes Valley green space, and watch the dogs and their walkers.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tcdahl

      Have you tried the bar that they sell at the booth? It is a lovely thing.

      I didn't understand the hot choclate at BB until I had that bar. It is identical flavor, but IMO, the heat mutes the flavor. I like eating the bar better than drinking it.

      But if you don't like sweet hot chocolate this is it. It's probably a few less calories too. Looking at the bar, it is not oversugared and 60% cocoa. The calorie count was a little lower than many chocolates.

      1. re: rworange

        I tried the mocha first, last week. I usually just get the cap or a latte, since most mochas are too sweet (I'm looking at you, coffee chains!). It was a cool day and I was running around, so I took the plunge and tried the mocha. I was pleasantly surprised, so a few days later I tried the hot chocolate. Ditto.

        Have yet to try the actual chocolate bar, but will pick it up shortly I'm sure. I just wish that Blue Bottle had more places to sit, so that I could read and hang out (like Ritual's space on Valencia).

    2. I like Coupa in Palo Alto. Spicy Hot Chocolate that is subtly spicy. Nice place.

      1. Sketch--comes with one of their yummy marshmallows.

        2 Replies
        1. re: amyc

          Sketch sells Blue Bottle Coffee. I wonder if they have the same hot chocolate as Blue Bottle.

          1. re: rworange

            I don't know. They chip chocolate off of a block into hot milk while you wait.

        2. Not new, but I've always been fond of the mocha Mexicana at Cafe Que Tal on Guerrero near 22nd. You can get just a Mexican hot chocolate, but the coffee blunts the sweetness just enough. It's nothing fancy--Abuelita, I think--but made perfectly.

          I also had a yummy peppermint hot cocoa at Peet's, which has fresh whipped cream. I don't like their mocha for some reason.

          1. Bittersweet on College in Oakland

            1 Reply
            1. re: anniebananie

              Are they still doing the no-milk-just-water-like-those-eccentri-europeans thing?

            2. Ditto to Bittersweet. They have a selection of hot chocolates -- one that's spicy, one made with water not milk, and others.

              Tartine's is very good, so long as you ask them to give the pitcher a shake before they pour it for heating (the chocolatiest part settles at the bottom of the pitcher).

              Downtown, my favorite is Cafe Madeleine. Not as rich as Tartine's, and the chocolate flavor is a little sharper.

              I don't like Boulette's Larder (Ferry Building) -- their chocolate is so rich that it congeals into pudding when cooled. Because I think of hot chocolate as a breakfast drink, theirs is just too much.

              2 Replies
              1. re: david kaplan

                Thought your homebrew was worth linking to again.

                Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  I second David's recommendation for Madeleine's hot chocolate, but warn that some might actually find it too rich. All the chocaholics I've told to try Madeleine's love it.

                  The ones with less of a sweet tooth who are more after a hot soothing drink that reminds them of childhood sometimes find it too thick, creamy, chocolatey, and sweet.

                  I always ask for mine extra hot; otherwise I chug it down before I can get two steps out the door.

              2. Good topic! Here's what I've tried within the last year from top to bottom:

                1) Dolce V
                2) Cafe Society
                3) Coupa Cafe
                4) CocoaBella Chocolates (shown below)
                5) Tartine
                6) XOX Truffles

                CocoaBella offers a few options. Don't recall which I ordered, might have liked it more if I didn't have to drink it out of cardboard.

                Noncommercial, but david kaplan's spicy homemade concoction trumps them all.

                Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melanista/...

                6 Replies
                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  So, is the Dolce V hot chocolate only available at the cafe in Sebastapol? I keep meaning to try Cafe Society but it seems I'm never there when it is open.

                  I'm going to have to locate last year's hot chocolate thread. Seems like there was some place in the East Bay ... maybe Oakland ... that had a spicy Mexican hot chocolate. I've been hoping someone would mention it and save me the search. Seems like alcohol was involved in it too.

                  First mention that I remember of Cafe Que Tal in SF. Will have to give that a try if I'm in the nabe.

                  Link: http://www.ladolcev.com/boutique.htm

                  1. re: rworange

                    I dunno, have only had it at the cafe. Part of the charm is that the cafe is located in an antiques coop. The French hot chocolate is served in your choice of bone china cups and saucers.

                    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    1. re: rworange

                      I've heard that Bittersweet is the bomb (on 2123 Filmore and somewhere near rock ridge in oak).


                      1. re: Jamie

                        Bittersweet Cafe on Filmore is quit good. Also, Boulettes Larder and Citizen Cake.

                    2. re: Melanie Wong

                      I haven't tried all on your list (and now plan to!), but would rate Blue Bottle's hot chocolate about equivalent to Tartine's. Less sweet, actually, which is my preference.

                      1. re: bernalgirl

                        After some fair to middling ramen in Japantown for lunch on Sunday, I treated myself to some Blue Bottle hot chocolate ($3) to wash the taste out of my mouth. I liked the Guittard Sur del Lago bittersweet very much and the frothed up hot milk. However, I would like more chocolate in my hot chocolate, this was a bit faint. I did like it a little more than Tartine's which was even weaker, and perhaps I need to head dk's advice to ask 'em to shake it up to get more chocolate.

                        I had not been to the kiosk for a few months and followed right behind another car that turned into the one-way alley from Gough, i.e., going the wrong way. I had forgotten that the now complete Octavia extension has opened up the other end of the alley. Both of our cars were surprised to find on-coming traffic --- I'll have to change my ways!

                        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                    3. Caffe Roma in North Beach makes a delightful 'white coco' - a white chocolate 'hot chocolate.' Since I am a bit of a snob when it comes to chocolate, I never would have ordered this beverage. But a friend ordered it - he cannot tolerate caffine - and I took a sip. It is truly in the category of 'comfort food' and I am looking forward to a cold, rainy winter night to order my first cup. Actually the serving is so big that it is more like a bowl.

                      I don't recall seeing this anywhere else, but it is hard to belive that it is only served at Caffe Roma. Anyone else tried this beverage?

                      1. I'm looking for favorite hot chocolates in Contra Costa County? Walnut Creek,Orinda, Lafayette, Concord, Pleasant Hill????

                        1. a
                          Andy Copeland

                          I don't know if anyone has posted about it yet, but Town Hall makes a pretty darn good cup of hot chocolate. Thick and hearty, it has a bit of nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices in it. It's just enough to really enhance the flavor while still letting the chocolate show. Highly recommended.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Andy Copeland

                            Yes! Was wondering if somebody would mention Town Hall. Very nice outing to sit at the bar and have a hot chocolate. For day to day, I really like Bittersweet though. Glad to know there are so many options, I am so stuck on Bittersweet I just didn't realize . . .

                          2. The morning's warming beverage was hot chocolate, $2.25, from Emporio Rulli on Chestnut. Not sweet, but not very much chocolate or character either.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              Yeah, their regular hot chocolate is only fair. They have a thick European hot chocolate for dessert like Boulette's. Well they did last year. I liked it. It was fine to try. But I decided at the end of last season I'd rather the more traditional chocolate rather than the thick type. Maybe I just haven't come across the right one yet.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Hot chocolate o' the morn was Abuela Chuao (nonspicy) from Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto. After the last couple days' mostly milky versions at Blue Bottle and Emporio Rulli, this was a big change of pace with a deep, rich chocolatey flavor. Rather than the slight bitter note of Blue Bottle's Sur del Lago that balances out the sweetness, the Abuela has a tangy bite of sourness in the finish that keeps it from being cloying. It also scored points for being VERY hot. I didn't put a sleeve on the paper cup and I had to switch hands with it a couple times on the way out to the car and could barely stand that.

                                The paper bag had a bran muffin in it. It was heated in a toaster oven, not a microwave at the cafe. Even more points for that. My hot chocolate was so rich and stultifying, I only had room for one bite of it. Lots of chopped walnuts and very good.

                                1) La Dolce V, Sebastopol
                                2) Cafe Society, Napa
                                3) Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto - Abuela (shown below)
                                4) Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto - Spicy Maya
                                5) CocoaBella Chocolates, SF
                                6) Blue Bottle, SF
                                7) Tartine, SF
                                8) XOX Truffles, SF and Oakland
                                9) Emporio Rulli, SF - regular

                                Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melanista/...

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  I can't say for sure this is still true, but XOX Truffles used Ghirardelli's powdered mix for their hot chocolate!

                                  Also, Chantico, the special holiday hot chocolate that (sorry) Starbucks used to serve was quite good.... not super sweet, but very rich, dark and strong. Unfortunately, they stopped selling it because it wasn't as "customizable" as their customers like their drinks -- you couldn't do the "short half-caff double-no fat whipped..." routine.


                                  1. re: waldrons

                                    The last time I had hot chocolate at XOX which was a few years ago, they were using the chocolate in their truffles as a base for the hot chocolate. It was ok, but I think the chocolate worked better for the truffles ... and they used aerosol whipped cream for the topping.

                            2. Tried three places since this post and I've stopped looking because I found the perfect hot chocolate at Dona Tomas.

                              Last year there was a mention of it in the Chronicle:

                              "chocolate from Oaxaca, with spicy cinnamon undertones. The milk and chocolate blend is foamed in an espresso maker, served in a latte bowl -- and some diners like to warm it up even more with a splash of Patron XO tequila."

                              This is so wonderful there is a thick froth on top and, I don't know why, it sparkles a little. Not at all sweet, just milky chocolate wonderfulness. So nice it overcame my usual objection to hot drinks served in latte bowls.

                              I couldn't remember which alcohol the Chron mentioned, just the Patron part. My server didn't know either and thought it was the Patron coffee liquor ... wrong ... it screwed up the little bit of the hot chocolate I tried it in. Much too sweet. It should have been the Patron XO tequilla. But this is such a nice cup of hot chocolate I don't think I'd ever try to doctor it with anything again.

                              Crixa makes a nice standard cup of hot chocolate using Guittard chocolate. Two types - regular or bittersweet. The bittersweet was still sweet but had nice bittersweet notes. Crixa won my heart when I was asked if I wanted it extra hot ... YES !!! What a concept HOT hot chocolate. More places should do that.

                              I wasn't going to mention Cafe Euro in Richmond on 23rd. The Mexican hot chocolate (not spicy) was a little too sweet. However, thinking about it, it was a good standard cup of hot chocolate. Not worth going out of the way for, but better and cheaper than anything Starbucks brews. It was $2 for a huge cup.

                              I tried Tacubaya first, but they are having trouble with the distributor and didn't have the hot chocolate. Don't understand this, since Dona Tomas carries it. Still, I doubt they could do as lovely a job as Dona Tomas.

                              In all the years, no one has mentioned Pete's ... good or bad.

                              Here's the link to last year's discussion. Lots of the same places mentioned as last year ... Torrefazione - RIP ... killed by Starbucks.

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: rworange
                                Mick Ruthven

                                >I found the perfect hot chocolate at Dona Tomas.<

                                And where is Dona Tomas?

                                1. re: Mick Ruthven
                                  Melanie Wong

                                  Top o' the page of a google search is


                                  Dona Tomas
                                  5004 Telegraph Avenue
                                  Oakland, CA 94609
                                  Tue-Thu 5:30pm- 9:30pm
                                  Fri-Sat 5:30pm-10:00pm
                                  Tel:(510) 450-0522

                                  Link: http://donatomas.com/

                                2. re: rworange
                                  Morton the Mousse

                                  I think the hot chocolate was my favorite part of my meals at Dona Tomas.

                                  Sketch is serving hot chocolate during the winter. It is a fabulous cup: rich and creamy though not too sweet. I really liked the house made marshmallow that they plop on top. It slowly melts as you drink your hot chocolate so that you get these little tastes of melted marshmallow. The best part is the end of the cup, when you have this half melted, chocolate infused marshmallow that you can slurp up.


                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    Well Morton, I've been avoiding Sketch because I was guessing they were using the same chocolate as Blue Bottle, Guittard's Sur Del Logo ...

                                    but a home made marshmallow on top makes it something else.

                                    Did you ever try the hot chocolate at Tacubaya? Is it the same as Dona Tomas?

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      Morton the Mousse

                                      The hot chocolate at Tacubaya is similar to the one at DT but not as good. It has a similar spicing but the chocolate doesn't taste as good. I used to love getting a combo order of churros and hot chocolate at Tacubaya, but since I discovered Sketch I haven't returned to Tacubaya for sweets. Kind of like how once Pizzaiolo opened I haven't returned to Dona Tomas.

                                      I'm not sure what chocolate Sketch uses though I wouldn't assume it's the same as Blue Bottle just because they serve Blue Bottle coffee. Sketch uses lots of chocolate in their confections and chocolate ice cream, it wouldn't surprise me if they have several varieties for different purposes.

                                      1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                        The best is a warm order of churros from Tacubaya along with a cup of smooth, cool ice cream from Sketch.

                                  2. re: rworange

                                    Hello, is it Peet's C&T that you're referring to? When I worked there a few years back we used to make the choc. syrup base for the hot choc. from scratch, powdered cocoa(Dutch process I'm pretty cure), cane sugar, water, period, then it got switched to a ready-made syrup that was dispensed from ecologically wasteful bladders (big commercial processor).I don't know what they do today. Peet's's hegemonic mantra was/is "the highest quality" and they had another good one "growth without compromise".So I don't think their product is in the same category with any decent Mexican-style chocolate beverage.

                                  3. Any new favorites?

                                    I haven't tried all of them yet, but my favorites are:
                                    Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto - Abuela
                                    Coupa Cafe, Palo Alto - Spicy Maya
                                    MarieBelle hot chocolate - sold at William Sonoma stores

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: hhc

                                      Has anyone tried the hot cocoa at Fleur du Cocoa in Los Gatos? I've tried Coupa Cafe hot chocolate before, and while it's better than most, it doesn't quite assuage my French hot chocolate craving. I've been on a quest to find hot chocolate like they have in Paris--particularly Angelina and Laudree. . . my mouth waters just thinking about it--where the predominant flavor is rich, dark (I mean really dark, like 70 percent or above) chocolate and not sugar. Haven't been to Fleur yet, but was curious if anyone else has and has tried their hot cocoa.

                                      I also wish they stocked Jaques Torres here, which I like too, along with Marie Belle, but alas!

                                      Ahhh. Tis that season of warm drinks again. :)

                                      1. re: anzu

                                        I haven't been to Fleur de Cocoa for a couple of years, but from what I recall their hot chocolate was thick and rich, the texture quite reminiscent of Ladurée. My memory fails a bit though, trying to recall if its sweetness level was similar to the French style (i.e., not as sweet as typical American hot chocolate).


                                        1. re: anzu

                                          I'm a big fan of Fleur du Cocoa in Los Gatos. It's a destination for me and my gf - a reason to bicycle to Los Gatos (50 miles round trip) is the stop at Fleur.

                                          Generally, though, I prefer Mexican style - we're still working through the stash from the last Oaxaca trip. Any recs for peninsula Mexican hot chocolate would be appreciated, we're fairly happy with Cafe Boronne but it's not to die for.

                                          1. re: bbulkow

                                            Thanks! I'll give Fleur a try and report back. Bbulkow, have you tried the hot cocoa at Coupa? They are more Venezuelan style, but both the spicy and the Abuela have a bunch of spices (nutmeg, maybe cinnamon?). It's not Mexican, but I think it's better than Boronne's.

                                      2. This is so wrong it is pathetic, but the junk food side of me is getting really tempted by the alchoholic hot chocolate at Grournd Round in Richmond, of all places ...

                                        - Cocoa cafe: Hot cocoa with Starbucks coffee liquor and DeKrupper peppermint scnapps

                                        I feel so ashamed. I'll report back if I cave in and get it .. and I probably will.

                                        1. Mission Pie on 26th Street makes a wonderful hot chocolate with El Rey chocolate. They cut up a block and blend it with milk and top it with homemade whip cream.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: finchycocoa

                                            This is ridiculously easy to do yourself -- I not only do it at home, I do it at the office (I actually did it the first time at the office, on a cold lonely afternoon (one of those December days when everyone took the day off except me) when I was desperate for hot chocolate and the office kitchen was out of mix). I never buy hot chocolate mix anymore, and I'm always disappointed when I get it when I'm out, because it's not as good as mine. Plus, you can experiment with different chocolates and any spices or flavorings you want!