There’s nothing like stumbling on a cute and cozy coffee shop on a wet and rainy day, especially when said coffee shop has flavoured hot chocolate! When I first came up with the idea of starting the Hot Chocolate Series, I admit, I envisioned falling snowflakes, mittened hands, and sun bouncing off sparkly white snow. I didn’t exactly anticipate walking around in slightly wet socks, and shaking excess water off my umbrella and dodging puddles in the middle of January. I’m not a fan of frostbite either, but let’s be honest, the not-so-winter-wonderland type of weather has put a damper on my wintry white hot chocolate fairy tale. Luckily for me, our beloved city has some very delicious hot chocolate to make up for that! Introducing, the raspberry hot chocolate from Coffee Zone on Carlton Street!
The first block on Carlton St. just off of Yonge has been developing into quite the foodie haven. The area may not be the haute couture of gourmet dining, but it does have its gems. First, we have The Sushi Shop on the south side of Carlton right beside the eastbound College subway station entrance and exit. Then we witnessed the partial transformation of Maple Leaf Gardens into the 80 000+ square feet* food and grocery mecca that is Loblaws late last year, complete with cheese wheel wall and designer cupcake wall. Finally, we bid farewll to 2011 and rang in 2012 with the opening of a brand new Bulk Barn store in December just a hop, step, skip away from the corner of Carlton and Yonge; bakers and cooks in the downtown core rejoice! Coffee Zone sits right in the middle of it all and for the life of me, I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before!
I’ve been in and around the area countless times thanks to my many trips to Allan Gardens over the years and the cozy spot never even flitted across my field of vision. How embarrassing! Leave it to me to suddenly look up and see the hot chocolate menu board through the window on a random rainy winter day though!
Coffee Zone is a comfy coffee shop and lunch cafe that serves sandwiches, desserts and pastries, and plenty of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate drinks. And I mean plenty! Aside from the hot apple ciders, london fogs, chai lattes, and cappuccinos, they have a slew of iced coffee drinks and flavoured cafe lattes. There are 10 – count ’em 10 – flavours of cafe lattes! Flavours include vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, mint, strawberry, raspberry, irish cream, butterscotch, caramel, and hazelnut. Not only do they have 10 flavours of cafe lattes, they also have a number of different espresso drinks such as red eyes, single and double espressos, espresso macchiatos, and espresso con panna. The variety of drinks alone would make any coffee lover wiggle with glee.
The cafe is open and spacious with huge windows looking out onto the street and the colours, furniture, and decor scream warm and welcoming. The chairs are painted in bright and cheery floral, butterfly, and polka dot prints, the walls are of a warm moss green, plushy armchairs and couches adorn both sides of the cafe, and a mini fireplace beckons you to curl up and enjoy a hot cocoa. If you love flavoured hot chocolate, you will adore Coffee Zone’s hot chocolate menu. Much like the cafe latte selection, there are multiple flavours – and sizes – to choose from: mint, vanilla, irish cream, strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, and marshmallow. A full menu of flavoured hot chocolate and comfy couches with a cute little fireplace? I was sold!
I chose the raspberry hot chocolate ($2.49, small) and opted for a little bit of whipped cream on top at no extra charge. I plopped onto one of the squishy couches and made myself at home while I waited for my fruit hot chocolate and when it was ready, I was presented with the most adorable, fluffy, frothy raspberry hot chocolate! The whipped cream sat on top like a puffy cloud with powdered cocoa and frothy raspberry pink edges. It was like Jigglypuff wrapped in cotton candy, in hot chocolate form! It was fluffy and cute and it tasted delightful.
The moment the whipped cream, hot chocolate, and raspberry flavour hit my tastebuds, I let out a happy, “Mmm, this is so good!!” The raspberry flavour was bang on and it was strong, in a good way. It didn’t overwhelm the chocolate but it was plenty strong and present enough for you to know the raspberry was there. With drinks, there’s nothing worse than ordering a flavoured one only to taste it and be disappointed by the complete lack of flavour. It was fruity and sweet and the flavour was unmistakeable. The hot chocolate wasn’t scalding (thank god) and the whipped cream didn’t melt away and disappear which I really appreciated. If I had to give it a fixer-upper, I would make it just a touch thicker, but other than that it was beyond delicious. I couldn’t believe the coffee shop, with its huge menu of drinks, had been under my nose all this time and I’m very much looking forward to trying a few other flavours of hot chocolate. Thanks to my realization, that wet and rainy day proved to be a great day after all.
Coffee Zone is located at 30 Carlton St., just east of Yonge on the north side of Carlton. It is steps away from College subway station and sits just west of the new Loblaws in old Maple Leaf Gardens.