The Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival is a local excuse for people to treat themselves to mugs of gourmet hot cocoa from some of the city’s best cafes.
See below for information about the event from past years, including a list of participating venues and details about hot chocolate cooking classes.
Hot Chocolate Festival
2021 marks the 11th anniversary of Vancouver’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Last year the event ran from January 18th until February 14th (the last day of which was Valentine’s Day). In 2021 it runs from January 16th until February 14th.
New for 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, most restaurants are offering takeout-only options for the Hot Chocolate Festival. Some restaurants are offering limited in-restaurant dining, but folk are being encouraged to take their hot chocolate creations to go.
Close to three dozen cafes, bakeries and chocolatiers throughout the region participate in the event by offering extra special gourmet cups of hot chocolate on their menus. Even a few gelato and specialty ice cream shops join in too!
Each participating venue offers a special selection of hot chocolate creations during the festival. Ingredients include everything from white chocolate to dark chocolate, Belgian chocolate, exotic whipped creams, torched marshmallow, cookie crumbs and even ice cream!
It’s not really a “festival” …
The festival isn’t so much a “festival” as an excuse to indulge, warm yourself up and try different cafes around town. In fact, often when you go to a venue you have to look around for their Hot Chocolate Festival menu. It’s a pretty subtle “festival,” but the drinks are good and usually somewhat out of the ordinary.
At the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival don’t expect parades, balloons, live entertainment, fireworks or even craft activities and face painting for children. It’s not that kind of festival at all. Again, it’s an excuse for a unique cup of hot chocolate, but a good one!
Given that Vancouver’s winter can start to get dreary by the end of January and early February, any excuse to indulge in something like hot chocolate is a welcome opportunity!
Some of the festival’s participating venues in 2021 include the following:
(Note: Venue and menu details are subject to change. See location websites or the official website for more.)
- 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters – with locations at 2902 Main Street in the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood and at 2198 West 4th Avenue in Kitsilano.
- Beaucoup Bakery & Café – at 2150 Fir Street in Kitsilano. Their Hot Chocolate Festival specials are a Thai milk tea-flavoured chocolate drink served with an airplane-shaped bon bon and peanut butter milk hot chocolate.
- Bel Café – at both 1780 West 3rd Avenue in Kitsilano and 801 West Georgia Street at Howe (at the beautiful Rosewood Hotel Georgia). Their 2021 drinks are a peppermint vanilla hot chocolate (January 16 – 30) and a white hot chocolate with raspberry (January 31 to February 14).
- BjornBar Bakery – at 3053 Edgemont Boulevard in North Vancouver. They are serving an Earl Grey Tea-infused dark hot chocolate with an Earl Grey truffle bar.
- Butter Baked Goods – at 4907 MacKenzie Street (at 33rd Avenue). In 2021 they are offering a dark hot chocolate with peanut butter and butterscotch as well as an After Eight-type hot chocolate.
- Cadeaux Bakery – at 172 Powell Street in Gastown. They are offering a dairy-free chili-infused dark hot chocolate, another dark hot chocolate with pecan bourbon praline and a gold chocolate with vanilla bean and lemon brown butter. (Closed Sunday to Tuesday.)
- Caffe Artigiano – a coffee and pastry shop at both 4010 Main Street in Vancouver and 3154 Highland Boulevard in North Vancouver. Their 2021 drinks include a smoky orange milk hot chocolate and a strawberry ruby hot chocolate.
- Chez Christophe – at 4717 Hastings Street in Burnaby and 1558 Johnston Road in White Rock. In 2021 they are serving a milk and dark hot chocolate with honeycomb and a dark hot chocolate with Applewood whipped cream and sea salt. (Closed on Sundays and Mondays).
- East Van Roasters – an artisan chocolate and coffee shop that uses organic fair trade beans in Gastown at 39 Carrall Street in Gastown. 2021 festival treats include a dairy-free Dominican Republic drinking chocolate with black licorice (January 16 to 30) and a white drinking chocolate infused with juniper citrus (February 2 to 14). (Closed on Sundays and Mondays).
- Gem Chocolates – at 2029 West 41st Avenue (near Kerrisdale Park). Their 2021 creations include a Yuzu hot chocolate with ground cardamom (January 16 to 29) and a strawberry daiquiri-inspired drink (January 30 to February 10). (Note: They aren’t participating on February 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th).
- Glenburn Soda Fountain & Confectionary – at 4090 Hastings Street in Burnaby. They are serving a popcorn-infused milk hot chocolate topped with caramel whipped cream and a licorice-flavoured dark hot chocolate. (Closed on Mondays).
- Koko Monk Chocolates – a chocolatier at 1849 West 1st Avenue in Kitsilano.
- La Glace – an ice cream shop at 2785 West 16th Avenue. They offer a dark Valrhona hot chocolate or white hot chocolate poured over ice cream.
- Mink Chocolates & Café – at 863 West Hastings Street not far from Canada Place.
- Mon Paris Patisserie – at 4396 Beresford Street in Burnaby. 2021 treats include your choice of a ruby hot chocolate infused with lavender or a dark hot chocolate with hazelnut and raspberry. (Closed on Mondays.)
- Soirette Patisserie & Bakery – at 1433 West Pender Street in Coal Harbour. 2021 featured treats include your choice of a vegan pink grapefruit dark hot chocolate or a Tik Tok-inspired cereal hot chocolate. (Closed Sundays and Mondays.)
- Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Café – a chocolatier patisserie and cafe in downtown Vancouver at 1059 Alberni Street.
- Thomas Haas – a chocolate and pastry shop with locations at 2539 West Broadway in Vancouver and at 128-988 Harbourside Drive in North Vancouver.
- Uno Gelato – at 2579 West Broadway. Festival menu items for the season are a Mexican-inspired hot chocolate with cinnamon, chili powder and vanilla bean gelato and a cookies and creme hot chocolate.
Other places that participated in the event in previous years included the following:
- Cartems Donuts – at 2190 Main Street (near 6th Avenue), 534 West Pender Street and 3040 West Broadway in Kitsilano. Both locations offered a choice of hot chocolate with coffee, Amaretto and nutmeg or a dark hot chocolate infused with bananas.
- Earnest Ice Cream – an environmentally-responsible gourmet ice cream company with a location in East Vancouver at 3992 Fraser Street, another about six blocks from Science World at 1829 Quebec Street, and one in North Vancouver at 127 West 1st Avenue.
- Eternal Abundance – an organic vegan grocery store and cafe at 1025 Commercial Drive (a couple of blocks from Venables). They were serving a white hot chocolate with sesame (January 18 to 31) and a salted rosemary hot chocolate (February 1 to 14). The first came with a black sesame shortbread and the second with a lemon rosemary shortbread. Yum!
- Perverted – an ice cream store “with a twist” at 797 Thurlow Street. Their 2020 festival drinks included a tiramisu hot chocolate with espresso and a kumquat and yuzu white hot chocolate.
- TrafiQ Café & Bakery – at 4216 Main Street. This place served two out of four of the following creations at various times over the course of the festival: saffron, honey milk hot chocolate, white hot chocolate with rose and raspberry, praline-orange hot chocolate and dark hot chocolate with hibiscus.
In 2019, in addition to participating venues adding extra special drinks on their menus, there were a few cooking class events too.
On January 23rd and 30th, 2019, there were Italian Hot Chocolate Throughout The Ages classes that featured different styles of regional Italian hot chocolates. The events took place from 6:30 to 9:00 pm at the Trattoria at the Italian Cultural Centre at 3075 Slocan Street. The cost for each was $60.
On February 6th there was also a Hot Chocolates of the World cooking class at the Trattoria restaurant at the Italian Cultural Centre. This time the class was about hot chocolates from Italy, Colombia, the Philippines and Mexico. The cost for this event was also $60.
See the Italian Cultural Centre‘s calendar of events for more details.
The cooking classes are not taking place in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Tips & Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival experience.
TIP #1: Remember, it’s a season of exotic drink specials more than a festival. Don’t expect anything flashy – just mugs of extra-delicious hot chocolate.
TIP #2: Don’t drive across town for your hot chocolate and then drive immediately back. That would be silly! The drinks are good, but not that good! Instead, if you happen to be in an area and you love exotic chocolate treats, check out a participating place nearby. Or, if you see something you definitely want to try, then explore the surrounding area either before or after or combine it with a trip somewhere else.
TIP #3: Note that some places offer a choice of “official festival drinks” throughout the full festival season. Others though offer just one drink per week, so you don’t get a choice. That being said, however, of course all venues offer regular menu items every day of the week too.
TIP #4: Most places serve their drinks with a biscuit, macaron, scoop of gelato or other small treat, but not all.
TIP #5: Depending on your tastes, most of the drinks offered each season are delicious and decadent. Others, however, are arguably a bit weird (or at least not for everyone). Personally, for example, I think I’ll leave the flower-scented hot chocolates to others (who I’m sure will appreciate them more than me).
TIP #6: Don’t just visit the above places during the Hot Chocolate Festival and just for their festival specials. Participating venues are some of the region’s finest cafés, chocolatiers and bakeries. Check out their full selection of menu items any time of year!
Visit the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival website for more details.
For a list of great restaurants, click Lower Mainland Places to Eat and Drink.