Hot chocolate is a passion and this epic search for the best cup was a true learning experience
by Colleen Burns
Some of you may know that I have been a little MIA (sorry Claire, I truly love you) here at the paper for the past semester because I was studying abroad in Reims, France. So I figured it was about time I shared with everyone what I learned, and it all starts with one decadent dessert beverage: hot chocolate.
This past year, I tasted what I still believe is America’s best hot chocolate at a place called The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ. You should first know that I am well aware of the boldness of this statement. However, I believe I have the authority to make said statement based on the premise that I am a certified chocolate aficionado and would probably bleed hot chocolate if stabbed (please don’t test this theory).
Anyway, the Bent Spoon’s hot chocolate is unlike any other hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It is beyond chocolaty, rich in flavor, thick in texture, and to literally top it all off has homemade marshmallows. This single cup of GLORIOUSNESS inspired a semester full of foreign hot chocolate taste testing.
As someone who drinks hot chocolate almost every night (you can ask my roomies!), some of my friends were curious to what I would rate the hot chocolate I ordered at brunch one day in Paris. And thus, the hot chocolate chase began. Every time I visited a new city while studying abroad, I made it my mission to find the best hot chocolate(s), taste, rate, and document my oh so scientific findings on my Snapchat.
Every new hot chocolate was judged on a tight scale of 1 to 10, a perfect 10 of course representing The Bent Spoon’s cup. I took several factors into consideration to precisely decide the overall rating of the twenty-three episodes of my hot chocolate chase.
The most important qualification for a good rating is chocolatey-ness. A perfect 10 absolutely NEEDS to be made with high end chocolate to produce a super chocolaty flavor. This might seem obvious to those who prefer strawberry to chocolate and do not understand the complexity that chocolate has to offer. However, many of the hot chocolates in my chase were excellent 8s but could have been 9’s or 10’s if they were just richer and chocolatier. I cannot stress the following enough—hot chocolate can never be too chocolaty.
There are many other, important factors that could influence a rating but without the previously mentioned chocolate index, the rating would never ever reach a 10. These factors include thickness and texture; temperature; bitterness and sweetness; presence of marshmallows and/or whipped cream; taste, creaminess, and ratio of said marshmallows or whipped cream; extra spices or added flavors; and overall presentation and aesthetic of the mug/teacup.
As you can see, I take my rating process very seriously. However, it is not impossible to receive a 10 on the hot chocolate scale. In fact, TWO places earned themselves a 10: Milan and Versailles. Some memorable 9s included Rome, Florence, Paris, Dublin, and Barcelona. On the other hand, Brussels really let me down earning the lowest grade given: a 5. Meanwhile, there were plenty of other tasty (yet mediocre in the context of the scale) hot chocolates ranging from 6 to 8.5 in Strasbourg, Reims, Bruges, La Bresse, London, Edinburgh, and Clermont-Ferrand.
Some people may remember and evaluate their time studying abroad in different, probably more normal ways. But I, I measured my study abroad experience with 23 hot chocolates. And here’s what I learned:
- Looks can be deceiving. Sometimes the prettiest hot chocolates promise more than they can deliver in the actual content aka the taste. Fancy cups and designs in whipped cream do not necessitate an outstanding cup of hot chocolate. And this is a two-way street: sometimes the plainest cup of hot chocolate will surprise you with gourmet chocolatiness! Just how sometimes a shoddy-looking hostel is an actual shoddy hostel, and sometimes it’s an amazing place to stay and meet cool people!
- Appearances aren’t everything, but presentation still matters. While hot chocolate doesn’t need to be sporting a teacup fit for the Queen, attention to detail and presentation will surely be noted and appreciated in the overall rating. This reminds me of the nine oral exposés I had in just one semester, ranging in subject matter and language. Let’s just say I learned the art of Google Slides themes and creating the perfect aesthetic.
- It is never a bad idea to stop your tourist-packed travels for a cup of hot chocolate because hot chocolate has the power to bring good things your way. For example, hot chocolate brought me free pie in Rome when it snowed for the first time in ten years! In Barcelona hot chocolate brought me much needed time to rest my legs because I still do not work out enough to maintain the proper muscle mass of an active tourist.
- Hot chocolate is only as good as the people you share it with! I’m talking about the amazing friends I made in Reims. I’m so happy to have met you and can’t wait to see you again someday soon! This also applies to the friends back home who with I digitally shared my hot chocolate via Snapchat and who didn’t get tired of my snap stories. I loved getting responses to my hot chocolate ratings, so thanks for coming on this chase with me (and sorry to my snap friends who probably think I’m an annoying chocolate freak).
- I still can’t count!! Some of you may notice I have two episode 10s, meaning that there are in fact 23 episodes, not 22. My deepest apologies; some things never change.