Local hot chocolate impresses as competition heats up

The Southerner

By Carolyn Capelouto

As winter approaches, the chilly weather makes everyone want to stay inside, curled up with a nice cup of hot chocolate.

While homemade hot chocolate is an easy way to satisfy this craving, if you brave the cold and venture outside, here are some of the best places in Atlanta to get hot chocolate. I tested four different coffeehouses to find the best taste, price and overall experience.

First, I went to Aurora Coffee. This quirky coffee shop in the heart of Little Five Points is a neighborhood staple and has been around for many years. Plastered with band posters and murals, Aurora is an Atlanta favorite for coffee dates and study time. The small hot chocolate costs $2.75, and was smaller than any of the other drinks I sampled.

The hot chocolate was foamy on top and wasn’t too sweet, which I appreciated. However, the taste of chocolate simply wasn’t strong enough. To make things worse, my hot chocolate arrived lukewarm, and was cold by the time I finished it.

Although Aurora had a great atmosphere, next time I come, I’ll get a different drink that’s hopefully warmer. I continued on my journey, hoping to find a better hot chocolate option.

Next, I went to the popular chain San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company (1192 North Highland Ave.). The atmosphere is laid back, making this a pleasant place to  go if you have some homework to get done. Although it was busy as usual, the cafe is spacious enough to easily find a table. I had the choice between milk chocolate, white chocolate or Mexican chocolate. I ordered the Mexican hot chocolate for $3, and was not disappointed.

The hot cocoa was thick and creamy, with a slight tang from the spicy Mexican chocolate. It was quite strong on the cinnamon and nutmeg flavors, so if you aren’t a fan of these cozy wintry spices, opt out of the Mexican chocolate option and go with the more tame milk chocolate. Overall, San Francisco Coffee had the most relaxed atmosphere, and a unique twist to their hot chocolate.

Then, I visited Press n Grind Coffee in Virginia-Highland. The shop is bright and modern, with high ceilings. The music playing over the speakers was familiar but not the overplayed music on the radio. This cafe has the best atmosphere if you’re looking for a more energizing place to enjoy your hot chocolate. When I ordered, I was presented with a long list of milk to choose from, including almond and cashew milk. Feeling slightly less adventurous than I did at San Francisco Coffee, I ordered normal 1% cow milk. A small hot chocolate was $2.79.

Upon first sip, I was blown away by how rich and chocolatey my drink was. It tasted very much like it was made with real dark chocolate. The more I drank it, however, I found it extremely sweet, almost too sweet to finish the entire cup. I would recommend Press n Grind for someone who needs a sugar rush.

Finally, I went to Inman Perk Coffee. This hip coffee shop is right off the BeltLine, making it easy to go for a brisk stroll before you get your hot cocoa. The inside is spacious and painted green, giving it an earthy vibe. A small hot chocolate was $3.24, making this the most expensive hot chocolate I sampled. However, the lovely frothiness and creaminess of this drink made it almost worth the price.

The chocolate flavor wasn’t as strong as I would prefer, but I was glad the barista didn’t try to make up for it with extra sugar. This hot chocolate was definitely above average, though nothing I would jump through hoops to get.

At the end of my quest, I determined that the Mexican hot chocolate at San Francisco Coffee Roasting Company offered both the most authentic chocolate flavor and a tasty twist. However, for the most enjoyable atmosphere for a cozy winter treat and the most affordable option, I would recommend Aurora’s eccentric and relaxed environment.