- The Sword & Shield
The best hot chocolate spots in the Birmingham area
By HANNAH HITSON, Co-Editor-In-Chief and MARY FRANCES LITTLE, Assistant Editor
As the colorful lights, holly and joy of the holidays that are accompanied by frosty air go into storage for another year, all that remains is the biting cold. One of the most classic and sure ways to cheerfully combat the stinging chill happens to be one of Birmingham’s specialties — hot chocolate.
We tasted hot chocolate from five of Birmingham’s best: Revelator Coffee Company in Mountain Brook Village, Starbucks in Mountain Brook Village, Church Street Coffee Shop in Crestline Village, Chocolatá Chocolatier downtown, and Red Cat Coffeehouse downtown. We based our final score out of five stars on three categories of shop atmosphere, overall taste, and the value in consideration to the price and size.
We began our morning of chocolate at a local coffee shop, Relevator, in MB Village where we were pleasantly greeted by a joyful staff and clean atmosphere. The shop radiated chill vibes but was mostly empty due to their take-out-only policy. As an alternative, Relevator has outside seating.
We ordered a small, 12 ounces, hot chocolate for $3.80. Though a tad pricey, Relevator’s hot chocolate truly tasted like no other. Its consistency was abundantly smooth and managed to be thin without tasting watery. The foam on the top of the drink gave a savory factor to balance out the drink with a buttery taste. Though the foam definitely distinguished itself, our only complaint was that it made the actual chocolate hard to taste. However, this hot chocolate undoubtedly fits Relevator’s unique brand and fits superbly with their outstanding atmosphere.
Relevator hot chocolate is definitely like no other, but its value is not ideal. BLANK ounces for PRICE in comparison to other shops is not a steal by any means, but the price is worth it if you are looking to shop local and are looking for a distinctive environment. Overall, Relevator came in third place, but we still love them and will return when we want a different taste.
Following our Relevator run, we headed down the street to Starbucks. Similar to Relevator, Starbucks only allowed take-out orders but was much more crowded than our previous stop. Selling a 16 ounce for $3.22, Starbucks is the place to go if you want volume.
On the other hand, their hot chocolate tasted slightly watered down and quite similar to a semi-sweet chocolate chip. Though you get more for less money, the hot chocolate is generic and tastes similar to the Swiss Miss powder you can buy at the grocery store. However, Starbucks has various locations in Birmingham, so its convenience is a plus. If you are out and about with three dollars in your pocket, Starbucks is a nice option for you.
A Mountain Brook staple, Church Street Coffee & Books was our third buy. The shop is cozily situated in the corner of Crestline Village, and is so well loved by its community. The shop’s atmosphere serves as the expected coffee and books store, with dark tones and a quiet, peaceful character. The baristas also bring their own character, as they are all unique people who fit the shop perfectly, and serve their customers personally.
We purchased a small, 16 ounce hot chocolate for $3.54 at Church Street. The drink was a pretty good size for the price, but the taste was somewhat underwhelming. The chocolate that was used to make this was not the milk chocolate or semi-sweet that most are used to, but rather the kind of chocolate that is custom in advent calendars or Easter chocolate bunnies. Additionally, there was a small amount of whipped cream on the top that nicely accented the hot chocolate, but could not take away its unique taste.
Overall, Church Street Coffee & Books fills our bottom spot, as the taste was something we were not used to and were not expecting. However, this hot chocolate is by no means a bad one, and it is a great choice if you are in Crestline and need something convenient and quick. Support local!
Our fourth and favorite destination was Red Cat Coffee House at Pepper Place Downtown. The shop had the ideal coffee shop atmosphere, with dark wood and huge coffee bags in corners. It was crowded, signifying its popularity, and the service was great.
At Red Cat, we ordered our fourth small hot chocolate, with 16 ounces for $3.30. As we got in the car and tried it, we were amazed. This hot chocolate was the perfect mix between the straight milk chocolate from Starbucks and the savory, unique flavor served by relevator, something we had not thought to be possible prior. Not only was the taste perfect, but the consistency was as well. The drink was somewhat thin, however this was the perfect compliment for the incredible taste. To top it all off, the hot chocolate was served with a thin foam across the top, giving a wonderful marshmallow-hot chocolate blend that we all long for this time of year.
Red Cat’s hot chocolate stands tall in our number one spot, as it not only wins for taste, but trumps the competition in the other areas as well. The drink was worth its price, as $3 for a perfect small sized 16 ounce serving filled us well. The flavorful cross between two staple hot chocolates was something we never expected, and as a result, Red Cat Coffee House is now our number one holiday drink destination.
Our final destination was one like no other. Chocolata chocolatier in downtown Birmingham was a small, mystical shop like nothing we had ever seen before. The atmosphere was incredible, with dark blue and purple tones, accompanied by the smell of real, fresh chocolate. On top of this, the customer service was amazing, and the owner’s story of how the shop came to be made us love it even more. This store was unlike anything else in Birmingham, and maybe even anything in Alabama.
When we ordered our hot chocolate, we received two shot-glass sized paper cups, priced at $2.97 each. We were very surprised by this, but once we took our first sip we understood. The hot chocolate inside was unlike anything we had ever tried. It was more like sipping chocolate than your traditional hot chocolate, and it turned out that the small cup had been the perfect size. The flavor was rich, and the taste perfectly encompassed what real, natural chocolate tastes like. The consistency was relatively thick, adding to the sipping chocolate characteristic.
This hot chocolate takes second place in our ranking. It is so unique, and is certainly a must-see and must-try in Birmingham. This drink is the perfect addition to enhance traditional Christmas festivities, or even to have any time of year. Not only does it have an amazing taste, but it also comes with an amazing experience.
- Red cat
- Church street
After venturing on our own personal tour de Birmingham on the search for the best hot chocolate, we can confidently say that Red Cat Coffeehouse claims the number one slot for all-around greatness. Its unique taste, considerable value, and distinctive environment set it apart from all of the hot chocolate spots in Birmingham and earned our blue ribbon.