Hot chocolate festival 2016 brings out the best in drinkable cocoa

East Van Roaster's chocolate says the secret to a perfect cup of hot cocoa is all in its texture. They're offering ganache-based, drinkable indulgences during Vancouver's 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival.

Chocolate connoisseur Merri Schwartz says secret to perfect hot cocoa is in its texture

East Van Roaster's Shelley Bolton (right) and Merri Schwartz (left) stand in the chocolate lab. They helped concoct the cafe's feature hot chocolate: THE BUZZZZZ. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The only thing better than eating chocolate might be drinking it.

According to one connoisseur, the secret to a perfect cup lies in its texture.

"That's one of the reasons we make the type of hot chocolate that we do, which is ganache-based," said chocolatier Merri Schwartz from Vancouver's East Van Roasters.

"We make a base, an emulsion, of chocolate and cream to create a really smooth, luxurious, velvety end product that we steam with milk at the espresso bar to create a drinking chocolate that's not overwhelming, not sludgey."

One of East Van Roaster's two feature hot chocolates during the 2016 Hot Chocolate Festival made with Madagascar single-origin drinking chocolate, honey and topped with bee pollen. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

The cafe and social enterprise is one of 25 participants in the city's annual hot chocolate festival which starts January 16. 

Chocolatiers and restauranteurs have tapped into their imaginations to create wild versions of the classic drink.

Mink chocolates has created a hot chocolate blended with organic butternut squash, almond milk, dark chocolate and served with a smoked oyster.

If that wasn't enough of a surprise, Temper Pastry's creation involves dropping a chocolate bomb with a morello cherry marshmallow into steamed milk.

East Van Roasters has concocted "THE BUZZZZZ" — a hot chocolate derived from single-origin, Madagascar cocoa stirred with honey and bee pollen.

"The honey and Madagascar flavours really combine to really create a vibrant, bright flavour," said Schwartz.

The Early Edition's Margaret Gallagher tried the hot cocoa and found it was "really, really good."

"I can taste the honey and the pollen adds that little extra buzz to it," she said.

For a third year in a row, the cafe, which provides women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside with employment opportunities, will also receive a portion of the festival's charitable proceeds.

Those who wish to indulge will have until February 14 to do so.

Belrina is winnowing, or de-shelling, raw cacao beans before they are roasted. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

To listen to the full audio, click the link labelled: Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival preview.

With files from Margaret Gallagher


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