As I don’t drink a lot, I like alternative beverages. At the top of the list is hot chocolate and I’m always on the lookout for the best hot chocolate when I travel. Although most cacao is grown in South America, Africa, and Indonesia, most of the beans are exported to Europe where they are processed by expert chocolatiers. Most countries and major cities around Europe have at least one fantastic cafe focusing on hot chocolate, but there are a few that stand above the rest.
The Chocolate Tree, Edinburgh
Starting with my home base city, it’s hard to say which cafe in town has the best hot chocolate. Some of my favorites include Lovecrumbs Cafe, Black Medicine Coffee and Mary’s Milk Bar. However, I’d have to give the winning position to The Chocolate Tree. Several of their flavors are award-winning. I think the best is Winter Spice, made with 70% dark chocolate and organic cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, aniseed, and cloves.
Unfortunately, the Chocolate Tree Cafe in Bruntsfield closed down not long ago, but many cafes in Edinburgh still use their chocolate and you can also order it online. If you want to go to a cafe in Edinburgh for the best hot chocolate, I hear that the cafe which replaced the Chocolate Tree, Maytree Cafe, is just as good. Otherwise, I’d recommend Mary’s Milk Bar or Lovecrumbs by the Grassmarket beneath Edinburgh Castle.
The Chocolate Company, Rotterdam
In the past few years, I’ve spent a couple months in Rotterdam getting to know the city of my ancestors. While there, I found had of the best hot chocolates ever at the Chocolate Company. I actually had a full chocolate tasting with them at the world-famous Martkhal when I first arrived in Rotterdam, and then later found their cafe and spent many an afternoon working on my blog while sipping several of their dozens of flavors of hot chocolate.
They make their hot chocolate in the Belgian style, which is to say they have a large block of chocolate at the end of a wooden spoon which you then stir into a mug of steaming milk. As mentioned, they have dozens of flavors to choose from. They’ve also got chocolate fondues, chocolate ice cream, and even frozen chocolate blocks that are great for iced-blended drinks. If you really want to get decadent, go for one of the strawberry Belgian waffles topped with chocolate fondue and whipped cream.
Germany is the top country in Europe when it comes to importing chocolate and second in the world only to the US. German citizens are also fourth in the world when it comes to chocolate consumption (after Switzerland, Austria and Ireland).
While I didn’t actually have an amazing cup of hot chocolate in Germany, I have to mention the Chococoversum Museum. The museum takes you through every step of the chocolate production process, from harvesting the cacao pods in Africa to final packaging. The museum is of the best attractions in Hamburg and one of my favorite museums in the world. At the start of the tour, you will get some wafers that you can coat in chocolate at a fondue fountain. While it’s not hot, it’s still as luxurious and decadent as the other products on this list.
Finally, we come to Belgium. I can’t name any one cafe in the country to go to, as I think they are all at the same incredibly high standard. The quality of Belgian chocolate is strictly regulated by the government and, as they say, the proof is in the pudding.
The best hot chocolate I had in Belgium was at a cafe called Chocolato in Ghent. Sadly, the cafe no longer exists, but as I said, you can find hot chocolate just as good as nearly every other cafe in town. What I love about Belgian hot chocolate is how thick it is. It’s honestly as if they just melt down a delicious bar of chocolate and pour that into a cup.
I should also mention that France and Switzerland also have fantastic chocolatiers and cafes, but since I haven’t personally visited them, I’m not including them with my opinions on this list.
What do you think? Where have you had the best hot chocolate, and what’s your favorite flavor?