February is more than just a month for celebrating Valentine’s Day and asking your significant other on a romantic date.
For local non-profit agency Calgary Meals on Wheels, it is a time to get involved in the community, support local businesses and raise funds for those in need – all through steamy, delicious cups of hot chocolate.
This is the fifth year for the festival, which sees local restaurants and cafes create signature hot chocolate drinks. A portion of drink sales is donated to Meals on Wheels, and customers can vote online for their favourite drink.
“YYC Hot Chocolate Fest was an idea brought to us from a Calgary Meals on Wheels volunteer,” said Richelle Kenn, event coordinator for Calgary Meals on Wheels.
“You can expect to see the event continue to grow and evolve as we gain more attention, enthusiasm and continued support from our thirsty community.”
Not a lot of people are aware that Calgary Meals on Wheels’ services are available to anyone in Calgary, regardless of age or income, she said, adding that the organization believes the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest can help raise funds and awareness for the organization.
Calgary Stampeders fullback Rob Cote hosted the launch, partaking in the inaugural sip wearing huge mittens while taking a sip of hot chocolate. The Calgary Farmers’ Market estimated that about 1,100 people came in from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. with many of those present for the launch.
Christine Conley, outreach coordinator of Calgary Meals on Wheels, expressed her gratitude to the huge crowd that showed up for the event.
“Hopefully, you’ll enjoy those sips even more knowing that the proceeds are going to a great cause,” said Conley, after explaining that the proceeds will allow Calgary Meals on Wheels to further support their clients and programs.
Aside from raising funds, one of the organization’s objectives is “to promote local businesses that choose to be engaged and invested in their community.”
This year, YYC Hot Chocolate Fest participants doubled in number with 36 signature drinks from 32 vendors.
“This year is our biggest and baddest YYC Hot Chocolate Fest yet,” Kenn said.
Although 32 vendors entered the competition, only six were at the launch to offer samples to Calgarians at the Farmers’ Market.
Shelley Fink, owner of tea boutique TotaliTea, offered those at the market her signature drink called “Chocolate Buzz.” It is a “Mad Hatter” tea infused with chocolate, vanilla and cinnamon roasted in a mate blend. It’s “not as sweet” and is “healthier” compared to other drinks, she said.
“It’s such a great cause,” said Fink, a participant of the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest for the second time.
This year topped last year’s event because of how crazy the lineups were for hot chocolate samples, she said, adding that having one of her locations near the launch site helped get drinks to customers faster, although she still underestimated the size of the crowds.
Although a minimum of $1 from each drink sold is donated to the Calgary Meals on Wheels, TotaliTea is chipping in $2 per drink sold.
Hot chocolate enthusiast Jenny Williams brought her two kids to the launch and is thinking of getting a taste of YYC Hot Chocolate’s drinks from across the city.
“This is our third year going to the event and it just gets better and better,” she said.
During the launch, one of their favourites was the Bean Stop’s hot chocolate called “Black Magic Hot Cocoa,” which was declared winner of the 2015 YYC Hot Chocolate Fest.
Hopefully, you’ll enjoy those sips even more knowing that the proceeds are going to a great cause. – Christine Conley
“You could say my kids are loyal to Bean Stop,” Williams said. “But their drink is seriously good.”