Summer is done and hot chocolate season is here, so break open the pantry and move the cocoa back up to a prominent position in front of the summer ingredients.
There's no shortage of places that will whip together a cup of liquid chocolate but there's something magical about putting together hot chocolate at home on a drizzly fall day as rain threatens to keep falling right through to November.
For hot chocolate on-the-go, Pique readers voted the Belgian Hot Chocolate at Blenz Coffee the best in the resort in 2012 followed by the hot chocolate served at Moguls and The Lift.
The Blenz recipe uses authentic Belgian chocolate. The franchise owner in Whistler, Wendy Kendall, says using real chocolate is the key to the great taste of the hot chocolate from Blenz.
"We don't use syrups or powder. It's real chocolate that we melt down," Kendall confirms in a phone interview with the sound of a busy coffee shop clearly audible in the background. The chain puts the customer in charge by offering hot chocolate choice. There's more than one hot chocolate flavour to pick from.
"We have three different flavours," Kendall says. "Dark chocolate, we have milk chocolate and we have the white chocolate. You just can't beat melted Belgian chocolate."
While Kendall prepares to start serving more hot chocolate heading into fall she hasn't yet given up on summer.
"In the summertime we make this mochachillo from our Belgian chocolate and it is almost like a gelato-type — we blend it so it is almost like a chocolate milkshake," she says. "We also do iced chocolate where we blend our chocolate then chill it and then serve it over ice."
Over at Moguls, the baristas are using two different types of chocolate. There's a regular hot chocolate blend plus a darker hot chocolate used in the mocha drinks prepared at Moguls.
The Lift serves a popular syrup from Attitude Foods, a company that produces mostly organic and gluten-free products.
Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is also a favourite spot for hot chocolate aficionados. Like Blenz, Portobello offers Belgian chocolate drinks, perfect after a day of mountain riding in the fall or winter skiing or boarding.
Nita Lake Lodge also understands the superior taste real chocolate delivers in a mug of hot chocolate.
Starbucks, best known for its coffee selection, offers hot chocolate for those customers who are looking for a java alternative. The Seattle-based coffee company pulls together steamed milk, vanilla and mocha-flavoured syrups.
Wherever the drink comes from, whether prepared by a barista or whipped up at home, the Aztecs are to be thanked for discovering the wonders of cocoa 2,000 years ago. From its early beginnings in Mexico the treat made its way to Europe, where it was well received.
Back in the days before modern medicine hot chocolate was used for medicinal purposes to cure a sore stomach. In its early incarnations the drink likely did have healing powers. Refined sugar came along after chocolate became a popular drink ingredient so the healing power of the cocoa wasn't offset by any negative impacts from added sweetener.
More than one sweet-toothed modern scientist has bitten into the health benefits and discovered the antioxidants in hot chocolate can help prevent cancer. According to the science community, hot chocolate contains more antioxidants than red wine and tea. Researchers have also found that cocoa is a proven digestion aid.
Explorer Francisco Hernández claimed chocolate drinks helped treat fever and liver disease. Santiago de Valverde Turices, another explorer who apparently liked to play doctor, said hot chocolate helped in treating chest ailments.
These early travellers were consuming a pure drink that offered up the health benefits our modern scientists have confirmed.
Celebrity chefs and popular food writers have contributed their share of ideas on how to make the perfect cup of hot chocolate. Canadian chef Michael Smith, who oversaw food preparation at the Athletes Village in Whistler during the Olympic Winter Games in 2010, is just one celebrity from the food world with a favourite hot cocoa recipe published online.
Bring on the rain and drizzle so there's a good excuse to brew up a mug hot cocoa and curl up in a soft sofa to enjoy a good book. Recommended reading includes Hot Chocolate For The Mind: Funny Stories from Comedian Dwayne Perkins.
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