While a good cup of English breakfast tea is lovely, there’s not much else you can do with it. I see a good cup of tea as a necessity, so having one while out isn’t usually considered a treat.
I’m also really fussy about how I take my tea. Proper builders’ tea – strong, just a splash of milk. No sugar. The best cafes add hot water to a bag in a mug. Or even better, they provide a teapot, little jug of milk and pretty tea cups. Too many cafes pour the tea from an urn and add too much milk, making an insipid liquid that is like dirty dishwater. It tastes like tea-flavoured milk. Yuck.
I can’t stand coffee. Never have. I’ve tried all sorts of coffee – flavoured, with hot chocolate, with Baileys. Even the smell is repellent to me. It’s a shame, because coffee lovers have the choice of all sorts of multi-syllabled delights to choose from in a café.
So, for a special treat while out, I will usually opt for a hot chocolate. Finding a good one can be a minefield, though.
The perfect hot chocolate for me has a rich chocolate flavour, like dark chocolate. It is the chocolate hit I am after, not to cure a sweet craving – and there is a difference. I’ve tried a range of café hot chocolates that are too sweet, too sugary. Not satisfying.
Toppings such as cream and marshmallows are often appreciated. They are sweet, of course, and welcome when I am after a sugar hit. I like to find a satisfying dark hot chocolate beneath the sweet confection, but I am sometimes disappointed. There are a couple of independent cafes nearby that meet my exacting specifications: one even has a salted caramel hot chocolate, which is delicious. It’s good to spend money that benefits local businesses, so it’s a win-win for my palate and their takings.
The best hot chocolate I ever had was a very simple one. It was from a hospital Costa that Martin proudly brought me after I’d given birth to Hugo. During the days before Hugo’s birth I was on a very limited food and drink intake (it was because of my illness, and I was on an IV drip – I wasn’t being cruelly starved). That hot chocolate was delicious. A rich, tasty, delicious chocolate hit that also helped perk up my energy levels. Costa hot chocolate will always remind me of my time in hospital. There are happy and sad connotations related to those memories.
So, I know where to get a good hot chocolate that meets my exacting specifications. Like a true coinnoiseur, however, my quest for the perfect chocolatey beverage continues.