As promised, I’ve been out and taken on the extremely tough task of trialing hot chocolates from around the high street. This includes some national chains, as well as some local Cheltenham independents (and I might have sneaked a Vienna special in there too 🙊) – here’s my roundup.
Pret A Manger<
lthough Pret do have a Christmas menu, it's not hugely varied. The food is better than the Christmas drinks in my opinion, but they do have a mint chocolate hot chocolate on the menu. I'm not keen on mint hot choc (I think save the mint for the ice cream!) so I just opted for a good old faithful in Pret – the normal hot chocolate. I think they do this quite well, it's the right amount of richness with no fuss, something I'm happy to drink when working from there regularly – without feel guilty for lashings of Cream! Definitely one to have on a normal day, but if you're looking for that Christmas magic, unless you're into mint chocolate, I'd try somewhere else.
7/10 – great hot choc, could do with a better Christmas list
strong>Soho Coffee Co<
was really excited when I ordered Soho's rocky road hot chocolate – it had everything I could wish for in a topping. Whipped cream, chocolate sauce, AND marshmallows, all the things I'd usually pay to add in Costa if I was feeling particularly naughty. Sadly, once I got past the toppings I was disappointed. It looks great, and the toppings are fun, but then the actual hot chocolate was quite weak and watery.
5/10 – great toppings, need to nail the substance
heir winter menu is really cool – the kind of menu I wish everyone has always done. Instead of having specific hot chocolates and coffees, you simply add whatever Christmas Special you'd like to your coffee or hot chocolate. Everyone should learn from this. I decided to try the clementine hot chocolate, and sadly I was disappointed. The clementine was overpowering and I couldn't finish it, it was far too sweet and orangey. A little OTT for me, but I can assure you that their usual hot choc is up there with the best.
5/10 – perfect menu ideas, need to work on the flavours
hese guys have so much to choose from year-round, it's a surprise if you get around to trying everything! From secret menus to new items every week, Starbucks can definitely be a coffee or hot chocolate lovers dream. Their Christmas menu is pretty decent, great drinks and good food. The hot chocolate is good, although it's something you can order year-round if you want to make it up yourself – a fudge hot chocolate. They don't really put anything on it, other than Cream and some chocolate sprinkles on top if you wish, but the drink itself is good. I actually prefer it to their usual hot chocolate, as it's slightly sweeter and less rich (which is what I prefer).
7/10 – nothing to shout about but it’s a decent drink
Another place that offers a lot of choice when it comes to drinks, I have always been keen on the costa hot chocolate. They tend to offer a similar Christmas Drinks menu each year, but hey, why fix what ain’t broke? The billionaires hot chocolate is a strong choice, involving a lot of cream, marshmallows and some shortbread type crumbs on top, and using their usual hit chocolate base with some added caramel sauce, this is one that I’ve been back for since I first tried it. They could have done a better job of mixing the caramel sauce into the drink, but other than that I really enjoyed this drink, the hot chocolate itself is a firm favourite of mine, of all the chain coffee shops on the high street.
8/10 – great shout if you’re keen on a chain coffee shop, full of exciting treats
This new Coffee shop in town is fast making a name for itself, and mainly for its incredible hot chocolates. If you’re after an indulgent treat, this is most certainly the place for you. Their luxury hot chocolate (which is not a Christmas special) is full to the brim, with cream, marshmallows, chocolate sauce and even some honeycomb. It felt like a hot dessert more than a drink, but I don’t mind that at all. The hot chocolate itself is a perfect mix of rich creaminess, and I’m unsurprised that the people of cheltenham are flocking here to try the place out. Well worth a visit – although it’s good to note that this is not a Christmas drink, they don’t have a Christmas specials menu but I imagine this is largely down to them being brand spanking new.
8/10 – an indulgent dessert in a cup which will leave you feeling very full and satisfied!
The Coffee Dispensary
Again, not a Christmas menu here, but their choices of hot chocolate are plentiful. You can flavour your drink with hazelnut, white, milk, or dark chocolate, and more. As you might have guessed, say orange chocolate to me and I’m sold. So I tried their orange hot chocolate, and this for me was an absolute winner. It tasted like a Terry’s chocolate orange in a cup. They even made pretty patterns on top like you normally only get on Coffee! There was no fuss on this hot chocolate, which if you’re looking for a proper treat, something very naughty, then you might want to try somewhere different, but when it comes to hot chocolate flavour, this one does it for me. I’ll be back soon for another!
9/10 – none of the fuss, all of the flavour
Whilst I managed to work my way through a lot of hot chocolates over the past month, I did miss a couple of places out that I’m going to try and get to this December, plus a lot of these places have more than one choice, but I just tried one from each place. As I get round them I’ll let you know my thoughts – but hopefully this will give you a good start to the Christmas season. And just because I’m writing this from Vienna – here’s some of the best hot chocolates I’ve had in a long time, courtesy of some beautiful Viennese coffee shops 😝