New year starting with Vancouver’s 12th annual Hot Chocolate Festival

There are 44 vendors participating this year, offering over 100 great flavours

Knotty By Nature hot chocolate from Say Hello Sweets in Chinatown. (Aarushi)

Vancouver’s annual Hot Chocolate Festival, which started on Jan. 15 and will be open until Feb. 14, is offering locals a chance to try a wide variety of the well-known traditional winter drink.

The Hot Chocolate festival started in 2011, and was initiated to support the local cafés and businesses, including some of the city’s best chocolatiers, bakeries, and ice cream cafés.

There are 44 locations participating around Greater Vancouver, featuring more than 100 different hot chocolate drinks. These drinks are offered for a limited time only, and each location is offering one special drink each week. 

This festival is also organizing an Instagram photo contest, and participants have a chance to win a $1,000 gift certificate from the participating cafés. The winner will be drawn and announced on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14. 

Say Hello Sweets café is one of the participating businesses this year. This is the first time the café has joined the festival, and it is the only café participating in Chinatown. 

The café was founded by Naomi Rose in 2020. Rose initially started it from an ice cream truck in 2016, and everything she serves is dairy-free and vegan, including handcrafted ice cream. 

Say Hello Sweets is serving four different hot chocolate flavours inspired by Chinatown, and each drink is meant to reflect a different aspect of the area. Rose is also collaborating with local chocolatier Audrey Wong from Living Lotus Chocolate. 

Rose is introducing ingredients like five spices, black sesame, and many more as inspiration from China Town in the drinks served. Last week, the café was offering their “Knotty by Nature” drink. It had a five-spiced chocolate ice cream mix in it and was served with a soft pretzel, giving a good combination of sweet and salty at the same time. 

There are a variety of guests coming to the café, including bloggers, families, and couples, to enjoy this festival. 

Rose says she has had an incredible experience with the selection process of the drinks. 

“We made a big brainstorming list that all the drinks have to come with the edible pairing on the side,” she says.  

She tried a bunch of combinations and went with her favourites to put on the menu. Rose recommends “Knotty by Nature” and “Open Sesame to Cherry Grey Skies,” as both of the drinks are her top two favourites. 

Naomi says she is “really happy to see something is going on and bringing people out and bringing people joy.”