Helping the community has never tasted so good

Kiera Savoie, senior manager of Odyssey Coffeehouse, enjoys a cup of Salty Tokyo Cocoa hot chocolate at SAIT on Thursday, Feb. 29. She created this drink as Odyssey’s entry for this year’s YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. (Photo by Carolina Avendano/The Press)

When Kiera Savoie asked her employees to try the seaweed hot chocolate she had created, they were reluctant.

The soy-infused caramel drizzle and roasted algae garnish made it seem more like a meal than a treat. It only took them a few sips to realize that the savoury caramel sauce would become Odyssey’s new gem.

“A lot of my staff were surprised that they liked it when I made it for them,” said Savoie, senior manager of Odyssey Coffeehouse at SAIT. “Now some of them put that caramel in all of their regular drinks.”

The Salty Tokyo Cocoa, as Savoie named it, was Odyssey’s entry for this year’s YYC Hot Chocolate Fest.

The month-long YYC Hot Chocolate Festival is held every February, and this year’s winners included:

  • Cup That Runneth Over: Hexagon Café
  • Best Hot Chocolate: Little Chief Restaurant
  • Best Spirited Hot Chocolate: Tops Pizza and Steakhouse
  • Most Creative Hot Chocolate: Telus Spark

“(One) dollar from every hot chocolate goes to Meals on Wheels, which helps give meals to those in need,” said Savoie. “It’s good to be involved in the community.”

Odyssey has participated in this city-wide event for several years and won Best Hot Chocolate in 2020 with its Pistachio Rose White Hot Chocolate.

Beyond attracting new customers and bringing the community together, Odyssey’s participation in the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest is motivated by a good cause.

Brittney Edge, marketing and communications coordinator at Meals on Wheels, explained the impact of the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest in combating food insecurity in Calgary.

Brittney Edge, marketing and communications coordinator at Meals on Wheels in Calgary, poses for a picture at the city’s facility. She manages the social media and website for the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest. (Photo by Carolina Avendano/The Press)

“At Meals on Wheels, all of the meals that we send out are at a low cost,” said Edge. “When we do these fundraisers, it helps subsidize what we are losing to keep meals affordable for our clients.”

Last year, the YYC Hot Chocolate Fest raised more than $100,000 for Meals on Wheels, which, according to Edge, supports their operations.

“[The funds] allow us to expand into more schools and do more free programs like our Hot Soup Program, take on more clients, upgrade our kitchen and continue to keep up with the demand, because it’s going up about 10 percent every year,” she said.

This year’s fundraising goal was also increased by 10 per cent and, according to Edge, the response they have received this year is a hopeful sign. “We are getting quite a lot of feedback this year, so we are expecting to hopefully hit that goal,” she said.

The YYC Hot Chocolate Fest began in 2011 as an event that included 10 local businesses and raised $5,000.

“There were years when we didn’t have much interest or business willing to sign up,” said Edge.

Today, it has become an annual tradition that sees more than 100 businesses participate and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Because of the buzz it has generated for the past 14 years, it’s become a great way for Calgarians to go out and discover little cafés that they might have not known about,” said Edge.

They hope to expand it to cities like Okotoks and Airdrie next year and, in the long-term, make it an Alberta-wide event.

If you didn’t participate, keep an eye out for the new – and rare – flavours coming next year. If you did, rest assured that the extra calories you earned were not in vain.

Jamaica Khor, barista at Odyssey, prepares a cup of Salty Tokyo Cocoa hot chocolate on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (Photo by Carolina Avendano/The Press)
About Carolina Avendano Duque 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Carolina Avendano Duque is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.