Last month I gave myself the arduous task of hunting down the best hot cocoa Shanghai had to offer. I spent many a cold, blustery afternoon sipping chocolate drinks at cafes and restaurants across town, all in the name of blog research. It was challenging work, let me tell you!
My favorite by a mile was served at Shanghai’s go-to chocolate institution, HoF. I opted for the very grown-up Bailey’s hot chocolate and it was even better than I imagined. The dark melted chocolate was thick and intensely flavored with a generous dollop of whipped cream to balance the richness. It was served in a dainty teacup with a healthy shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream on the side, which cut any bitterness there may have been from the ultra-dark chocolate. None of the other drinks I tasted even came close. HoF also features the best chocolate cakes and desserts in town and I will be reviewing those in a separate post. Price: 48 RMB (about 8 USD – and worth every penny).
My second favorite – and the best bargain – was enjoyed at Bon Matin Paris, a local bakery with several locations around Shanghai. The signature creamy chocolate was light and frothy, yet still boasted a rich chocolate flavor. Perfectly sweet with no bitterness, it came topped with marshmallows and a drizzle of chocolate syrup. As a bonus, Bon Matin Paris offers excellent desserts and bakery items to pair with your drink. I recommend the “strawberry and chocolate cream cup,” a delicious interpretation of a strawberry shortcake featuring light-as-air chocolate cake and creamy frosting that cost just 15 RMB (about 2.40 USD). Price for hot chocolate: 22 RMB (about 3.50 USD).
Another tasty contender is the classic hot cocoa at Awfully Chocolate. Served piping hot, the thick melted dark chocolate had a slightly minty flavor and I couldn’t decide if it was in the drink or the small bit of cream on top. Either way, it could have done with a larger portion of whipped cream to add some sweetness. I wasn’t crazy about the cocoa powder sprinkled on top as it tickled my throat when I breathed it in. But that was easy to fix by giving it a stir. Price: 28 RMB (about 4.50 USD).
Popular cafe Wagas is serving a seasonal “minty dark chocolate” drink that I really enjoyed. The flavor is not as full-bodied as those using melted chocolate, but the cream on top was delicious as was the subtle minty note derived from fresh mint, not syrup. My only complaint is that the tall glass it was served in was too hot to handle at first, even with the cutesy napkin. This tasty treat is only available until February 28 so you’d better hurry! Price: 36 RMB (about 6 USD).
Starbucks can usually be counted on to serve tasty seasonal treats (pumpkin spice latte anyone?) and its peppermint hot chocolate is no exception. Supremely pepperminty and creamy, it was almost like drinking pureed mint chocolate chip ice cream. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste, though I only noticed it after tasting the higher quality drinks listed above. Price: 33 RMB for grande (about 5.30 USD).
I had high expectations for the beverages of renowned chocolate house Whisk and was sadly disappointed. Its classic hot chocolate, with 64% cacao, had an overpowering peanutty flavor that lingered long after I’d finished the drink. The addition of sweetened whipped cream may have helped, but there was no escaping the strange essence of peanut. Price: 45 RMB (about 7.25 USD).
The weakest entrant came from the Costa Coffee chain. The drink was watery and had a most unpleasant powdery aftertaste. There wasn’t even the saving grace of whipped cream. It came in an unwieldy glass that was too hot to touch and therefore extremely difficult to drink from. Price: 29 for a medium (about 4.70 USD).
Do you know of a good hot chocolate in Shanghai that I missed? What’s your favorite winter treat?
Let me know in the comments!