Calgary! A city that is growing and is vibrant and beautiful.
I spent most of February and some of March 2022 in Calgary, Alberta. Calgary is also known as Cowtown to locals, with a strong history in ranching and beef. While I did enjoy some lovely local beef while I was in town – beef bacon anyone? I also came across a lot of chocolate.
When I travel chocolate is always on my radar, so clearly, I explored some chocolate places. I am not new to Calgary, having lived and worked there for a year almost a decade ago, and visited several times after leaving there. I was impressed with how the chocolate scene has grown and is still growing and I can’t wait to see where it will go in the future.
I crashed at a friend’s place while they were away, making it easy to stay just over a month. The same friend told me the day I arrived that the YYC Hot Chocolate Festival was on while I was in town. Ummmm, yes please.
I usually start my days with hot chocolate, or drinking chocolate, so this seemed like serendipity that the festival was on for 18 days of my stay. Yes. Chocolate please.
Now the YYC Hot Chocolate Festival (YYC is for Calgary) was a lot bigger than I expected. With over 100 different hot chocolates offered around the city there were So. Many. Choices. Plus, a donation is made to Meals on Wheels for each hot chocolate that was purchased. So, I downloaded the app, yes, they even have an app, and used my location as a stepping off point for finding hot chocolates.
As it happened, I was staying downtown and being central worked to my advantage as there were so many places that I could easily walk to. Every hot chocolate I enjoyed was within walking distance. Some closer walks, we are talking 4 minutes, to some that were a bit longer, maybe 30 minutes.
In the part of the month I was there, I tried 10 different hot chocolates, but had hot chocolate 13 times.
Most morning I make my own hot chocolate and it was a bit of an indulgence to wander out and explore Calgary and have others make the hot chocolate for me.
Did I have favourites? Yes. Did I want to try more? Yes, but there is only so much time and one hot chocolate a day is a lot for me. Was it an amazing experience? Yes!
My personal favourite was from Kaffeeklatsch. Possibly as it was the only one I tried made with bean to bar chocolate that was made in Calgary – shout out to Goldie Chocolate – but also that I tried it with the chocolate maker. It was amazing, but I am also sure that how you enjoy it plays in as well, and meeting Amy of Goldie Chocolate over a mug of hot chocolate was a great way to start my YYC Hot Chocolate Festival experience. But honestly, the chocolate to salt to marshmallow ration was perfect. Not too sweet, not too salty. Made with chocolate using cacao beans sourced in Uganda, you could also add a shot of espresso, (also made with coffee beans sourced from Uganda) to it if you wanted. If that isn’t a great experience then I don’t know what is. I may have had 4 of these while in Calgary. Like I said, it was delicious, and it was the closest hot chocolate to where I was staying.
Each hot chocolate I had was unique and fun. From floral notes and inclusions, to sweet and mixed with caramel, to unique, or hyper-local. Seriously, one of the hot chocolates I had was in a mug made by a local potter, rimmed with honey and pollen from their roof. Pretty amazing to put in that effort to make it delightful. Yet when I asked about the chocolate, the restaurant staff didn’t know anything about the actual chocolate. I would love to see them source local chocolate next year.
I tasted hot chocolates with spices, with flowers, with caramel, with cookies, and I didn’t taste some that also sounded amazing. The hardest part was making a choice each day of which hot chocolate to enjoy.
So, all that to say, the YYC Hot Chocolate Festival was such fun, and I hope to visit again one year during it. Better yet, I’d love if Ottawa had something similar! If you are ever in Calgary in February, be sure to grab a fancy hot chocolate and support a good cause.
Watch out for the second part of this blog where I visit a few chocolate shops.