A Guide to St. John’s Hot Chocolate Hotspots, by David Barclay

The report contained herein is the most comprehensive unbiased consumer investigation on the topic of hot chocolate in downtown St John’s ever assembled.  The author, David Barclay, has personally tested and certified each establishment and submits the following reviews:

Fixed Coffee & Baking

Each artisanal handmade hot chocolate of the Fixed Coffee and Baking chefs is prepared with love, care and an attention to detail that only a proud parent could have.  In fact, each barista gives their signature touch to this classic drink, warm and round, or nutty and bold, or softly sweet.  I’ll let you figure out who is which.  True to the mission statement, found by this reporter on their website, only the finest ingredients are used: imported cocoa, your choice of milk or a milk substitute, salty Newfoundland sea air (for the steaming part).  You will not be disappointed.  They also have free Wi-Fi, which you can get outside without even buying anything.

Chatter’s Café

If you love value, then you’ll love Chatter’s.  Chatter’s knows that they work hard for their money and deserve to stretch every last dollar.   Chatter’s knows that you can save a lot of money by buying muffins in bulk from Costco.  Chatter’s knows that an extremely cost effective way to make a cup of hot chocolate is to simply pour hot-ish water into a cup containing a single package of Swiss Miss pre-mixed hot chocolate powder.  Chatter’s knows baseball.  If you appreciate thrifty penny-pinching and great internet & computer themed atmosphere, then Chatter’s is your spot.

Coffee Matters

I have only been to Coffee Matters once; to enjoy the free cake offered by the reportedly mean-spirited owners as an apology after posting a hateful and grammar-poor message on the subject of students using the café as a study space.  The cake was awful, despite its freeness, but the hot chocolate was okay.

Hava Java

I have never actually been inside Hava Java, but apparently it used to be THE spot.  They totally play cool indy [sic] music and have hot chocolate on the menu.  To the detriment of this comprehensive guide, I forgot to try it.  Write your own review:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Tim Horton’s (Duckworth and Prescott)

If you scored a goal, or made a great save, or were just a great team player, then you deserve a hot chocolate from Tim’s.  Even though their doughnuts are now made in a factory in Don Mills, ON, the quality of their hot chocolate remains a coast-to-coast classic, from the pee-wees to the big leagues.  That’s right, Wayne Gretsky drinks Tim’s hot chocolate.

Newfoundland Chocolate Company

I was told that this place sometimes serves hot chocolate, but despite my many attempts, I was never successful in the endeavour to satisfy my gourmet hot chocolate crush.

Coffee & Company

To be concise, Coffee & Company has the best HC (hot chocolate) in St John’s.  The ratio of whipped cream to drink temperature is perfect every time, allowing the patron to sip the hot chocolate through the cream, thus melting and mixing the two flavours the instant before they arrive at your taste buds.  Also, they sometimes have weird and uncomfortable open mic nights here.

Rocket Bakery

On the extreme plus side, you can get a decent croissant (or pastry crescent, as they are sometimes known) suitable for dipping in a high quality not-from-powder hot chocolate.  The baristas are also extremely open to strange requests.  On the extreme negative side, shelf upon shelf of fake canned vegetables.

Café Mocha

Café Mocha is a great place to charge your laptop after submitting your application for passport renewal.  Or better yet, if you’ve just picked up your new passport, drop in and celebrate that massive sense of accomplishment that can only be brought forth by completing mundane bureaucratic tasks famous for long wait times?  Order a hot chocolate and prepare to be delighted by the colourful language of the staff.  This reviewer found the hot chocolate to be excessively hot, which resulted in a mild tongue burn, however the endorphins released from finally getting my new passport totally blocked any pain or discomfort.  Also, note the adjoining passport photo studio conveniently located in the same building.

Post Espresso Bar (R.I.P.)

After consuming a delicious espresso from any of the fine coffee bars of St John’s, I often found myself buzzed-up and walking the downtown streets, wondering what to do next?  The aptly named Post Espresso offered the perfect solution: a delicate and rich cup of hot chocolate.  As you might expect from any establishment with such careful décor, Post supplied a high quality hot chocolate for a reasonable price.  They used that chocolate syrup in a clear plastic bottle and some hot water with a little milk frothed up right before your eyes.  I think they even sprinkled some chocolate dust on top of the foamed milk. On the weekend, head down early, grab one of those thick art mags and a spot in the window and prepare for your social life to blossom like a delicate rose at sunrise.  [RIP Post Espresso. I think of you after every espresso I drink.]

This guest post has been brought to you by David Barclay. You can check out his latest musical endeavour by clicking here.

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  • Hesperado wrote:2) a welter of Satanic depravity on all levels, including pedophilia, inoiptfnhilaa, incest, orgies, homosexual sodomy, necrophilia, rape with and without torture, gang-rape; etc.Which of these things is not like the others? In my opinion, homosexual sodomy doesn't necessarily fit the definition of Satanic depravity, if it's between consenting adults.Can Hesperado and/or anyone else comment on the inclusion of homosexual sodomy in the list of Satanic depravity? Are homosexual sodomites welcome in the Counterjihad?

  • the hot chocolate and peanut butter hot chocolate at Gracie joes should not be missed! Just remember to bring cash

  • ******UPDATE******
    Hey guys!
    Thanks for all the great comments! I will be addressing them individually over the next few months, but first I just wanted to let you know that I made it out to Mallard Cottage a few Sundays ago and tried the HC with the famous (or should I say infamous?!?!) homemade marshmallow (or should I say marshmellow?!). Taking a cue from Dave Thomas, the charismatic founder of Wendy’s, Mallard Cottage serves up their marshmallows as CUBES, instead of more traditional cylinders. The wetted surface area of the cubic marshmallow is increased by 27% (or more precisely, a factor of 4/pi) over an equivalent sized cylindrical confectionary, thereby maximizing the delicious boundary layer of satisfying hot chocolate-marshmallow goo. This is comparable to the well known geometric ‘bubble effect’ in an Aero bar, and it truly enhances the flavour of the drink. The hot chocolate itself has flavour notes of authentic whimsical folkyness, which I’m pretty sure they were shooting for, and probably some shaved nutmeg or something. Remember, hot drinks and sweet treats are a great way to beat the heat!

  • Cocoa de Mexico at Hava Java! Incredible! I also make my own with 2 to 3 tsp of cocoa, 2 tbsp sugar, a dash of salt, and one cup of milk. Then once it’s heated a little I add a tsp of vanilla, a small dash of cayenne pepper, and a drop or two of almond extract. Sometimes a little bit of cinnamon as well. Delicious!

  • If you didn’t have the Mexican Hot Chocolate at Coffee Matters, then you missed the best hot chocolate in St. John’s. Also, if you’d actually gone to the Chocolate Company or contacted them, they probably would have obliged and made you some specially (they’re like that).

    While I get that this is intended to be a tongue-in-cheek and humourous piece that shouldn’t be given an gravity, I too was disappointed with a ‘review’ that obviously involved no effort or actual investigation by the author. There would have been worse ways to spend your time than sampling hot chocolate…but you didn’t really even bother. I hope that you exert more effort next time.

  • Chatters hot chocolate is actually steamed with milk there is no hot water added to it, how about the next time you do a review on something you ACTUALLY review. Not just take a guess..but I guess ignorance is bliss.

    • Yeah, I was going to say. I actually used to work there and at least when I was there we used steamed milk/milk substitutes. Also, I can promise you if they did use water then it was not “hot-ish”, it was hot. I have burn scars to prove it.

  • When I moved to St. John’s two years ago, I was on the hunt for the best mocha in town. Jumping Bean coffee proved the winner. However, I’d like to note every single time I went into Café Mocha to order a mocha, their mocha machine was always broken, a beautiful irony.

  • Just a couple points of clarity:
    1. None of my comments were to set anyone straight – to each his/her own. I originally commented on this article to its editor(s) b/c it comes off a little pretentious and, again, I think there are a lot of worthwhile stories, reviews, etc that could be written in its stead.
    2. Frank, I surmise from your defensive language and insight into the H-scene, you consider yourself part of that culture. The Red Green/Ron James comment was not taking a collective shot at your kin… I just figured if you actually found hilarity in this article, there was a good chance the humor of those ‘comedians’ would be right up your alley.

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  • Hi Frank, in the future I’ll do my best to not comment on discussions crucial to the lives of the hipster-set. Glad you found something to lol about… and thanks for taking time from your Red Green/Ron James marathon to set me straight.

    • Ahh because the one setting us all straight never imagined he needed setting straight himself! And what a surprise that in defense you’d resort to the lazy use of that catch-all, overused-into-meaningless but still insecurely wielded as an insult, H-word. I want you to know Jonathan that to the best of my knowledge there is no secret society of hip gathered around a tv watching Red Green (?!) talking about how uncool everyone else is. Of course, if I’m wrong and there actually is, then fuck those people. In any case, you wanna criticize the indulgence of “first-world issues?” Cause this sure sounds like one to me: attempting to lampoon an article because you feel its author and readers are all basically one and the same elitist snob. It’s not a black and white world, Jonathan, there’s a lot of grey in there.

  • My apologies, I didn’t realize this article was written for humor… just as I was unaware that one “hilarious” comment constitutes “a lot of people”. And I hardly think a first-world issue such as who serves the best hot chocolate deserves ‘topical’ status. Unless, of course, you’re a Kardashian. Pretty sure most people in the city are just happy to have a cup of hot anything these days.

    Anyway… one guest post will certainly not deter me from continuing to read your paper. Your predecessor’s pages were often replete with nonsense, but it was perused faithfully. I guess I just think there’s plenty of real material out there to share without resorting to this type of get-over-yourself-already bullsh*t.

    • Far as I can tell, you’re the only one in here needing to get over yourself, Jonathan. Lighten up.

      Hilarious article (that makes two of us at the very least!) by the much-missed David Barclay.

  • Clearly he’s never had the hot chocolate from Mallard Cottage, in Quidi Vidi. That homemade marshmallow changed my life.

  • Is the author of this piece actually a twelve-year-old with above-average writing ability, or should your readers continue to expect this type of smarmy, ridiculous fluff? If so, it shouldn’t take long before The Overcast gives way to clearer skies.

    • This article is a one-off guest post, Johnathan. Topical, on account of the cold weather. A lot of people found it funny, some, like yourself, did not. But, writing off a four-day-old newspaper for one guest piece might be premature. We’d ask that you at least read one print issue first. And keep in mind that every paper has a variety of voices, pieces, and tone, to prevent sterility. Nice pun there, by the way. But there’s certainly room for more than one paper in this town, and we’re not going anywhere.

  • Hilarious article. “…however the endorphins released from finally getting my new passport totally blocked any pain or discomfort.” Ha ha. Thanks for the smile Dave, miss you!

  • A friend and I did a “best hot chocolate” experiment a few years ago. Coffee & Co was definitely our winner. Tim Horten’s hot chocolate is made tolerable on occasion (like when everyone in the office is getting a coffee from there and you don’t want to be the odd lady out so you mumble…ugh…hot chocolate please) by getting a raspberry flavour shot. It’s not totally terrible if you’re in the mood for something super sweet. Chatter’s…the guy who works there is so nice. I had hot chocolate there last week and he added lots of whipped green and a drizzle of chocolate over the top. It wasn’t so bad. Fixed was pretty bland as is Rocket’s. We make hot chocolate at home with just cocoa, sugar, salt and milk. You can also make homemade peppermint marshmallows to put on top. Yum!
    St. John’s needs to get its act together on the hot chocolate front!

  • It’s easy to write “the most comprehensive unbiased consumer investigation on the topic of hot chocolate in downtown St John’s” when it is, to my knowledge, the first to ever be written.

    …let’s pull the rug from under that! The following focuses on taste and value (which is price relative to taste) and strips away all other variables.

    Largely agree with assertions expressed by Barclay, though I could not find differences between the drinks the (two) different baristas prepared for me last December. You’re getting what you’re paying for, and you are paying quite a bit relative to most of the other options in this city.

    Again, largely agree with Barclay. Passable taste, but quality suffers from choice of ingredients. Chatter’s is downtown on a budget – and you will feel the (penny)pinch in your mouth.

    [Coffee Matters]
    I’m not sure if we visited the same location (I’ve only recently been to their Paradise location) and it basically tastes the same as Chatter’s. You aren’t going to be saving your nickels here, however.

    [Hava Java]
    Good taste, but nothing special. Overpriced.

    [Tim Horton’s]
    Passable, but sickly-sweet. Cheap, but still not really worth it.

    [Newfoundland Chocolate Company]
    N/A, never been to this business.

    [Rocket Bakery]
    I don’t know why this place gets such a good rap. This place is halfway between Chatter’s and Hava Java. My single drink had too much cocoa and tasted like it was topped up with blend cream. Could be a fluke, but otherwise not worth the price.

    [Cafe Mocha]
    N/A, never been to this business.

    [Post Espresso]
    N/A, why write about a failed business?

    You forgot the following:

    [Second Cup]
    They try hard to make specialty drinks, and they never really work. Too quickly made, too sweet, and substandard ingredients. Worst of all establishments for value with respect to the prices they charge.

    Indistinguishable from Second Cup. Value is just as poor.

  • Hava Java’s White Heat hot chocolate was my favourite, even though I haven’t had it in years. Can’t lie, the old spot was THE spot for people watching and hot-bevvy-sipping.

  • My 2 fav ‘close to Hot chocolate’ things not mentioned are Hava Javas (…guess I’m old too…) Chai Mocha Latte, and the Banana Hot Chocolate at Coffee and Co. Both amazing.

  • The Chatters entry doesn’t mention that they have an array of types of packaged hot chocolate to choose from! (or they did last I was there).

  • I love the art-is-anal hot chocolate at Fixed Coffee and Baking. I also agree that fake canned vegetables can ruin any dining experience, especially a hot chocolate one.

  • RE: the Coffee Matters comment above. The ridiculously customer-service-challenged owner who caused the brouhaha sold his stake in Coffee Matters shortly after that…incident. The owner of the Paradise store bought the Military Rd outlet, renovated and upgraded, and happiness resumed.

    • Happiness all around? Was in there a month ago with 30 minutes to close. Now I work at a café so I understand its a burden when people come in five minutes to close, but 30 minutes to close with a bucket of attitude? I didn’t get it.

  • When the author says that he’s never been inside Hava Java but apparently it used to be THE spot, all of my hair turned grey and then it fell out and then my face melted into ten thousand wrinkles. Because I instantly became Old.

    • Me too, Michael. It really was THE SPOT in its old location (pre- Fixed, Rocket, everything), and legendary. It’ll always have a nostalgic place in my heart. And they’re good folks.

      • The place to be in 2003! The new location lacks ambiance, but mostly I chalk up their decline to the change in opening hours. Caffeine-inured arty types sometimes want a place to conspire at 11 pm!

        Also, I’ll take a moment to pour one out for Post. I was so excited to discover it on one trip home, and on the next trip home it was gone. Like all the finest things in this fallen world, it was too good for us poor mortals. It could not possibly last.

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