Coolidge Corner Hot Chocolates: Face Off

Rachel Lee and Jade Kwitkiwski

Sixth Place: Allium Market

Neither of us had ever been to Allium, so this selection was mostly spur of the moment as we passed the historic-looking building with a white garlic clove on the window. Walking in, the impression was definitely a “wow” with hanging plants on the ceiling and different colorful prints all over the friendly, yellow walls. I immediately saw thick slices of toast with avocado and radishes on people’s plates and wanted to try it! But we were here for the hot chocolate, so the toast could be for another adventure…

Taste: Surprisingly, very underwhelming. There was no punch of creamy chocolate, but instead, it had a faint taste of cinnamon. There was a good amount of foam on top, but that was about it. If you’re not really a fan of chocolate and prefer some subtle spice, this unique drink might be right for you.

Presentation: Simple, which in this case was wonderful. The mug was plain white and ceramic, with a blue glazed dish underneath. The aesthetic matched the cozy quality that Allium gives off when you walk in.

Unfortunately, Allium placed lowest on our list because it lacked that warm chocolatey taste that we believe is the baseline for any hot chocolate. We appreciated the creativity of trying to step outside the box and put a twist on a classic drink- but this time, it just fell through. Overall rating: 3/10, the price was $3.25 without tax.  

Fifth Place: J.P. Licks

A Brookline area favorite and now one of the only places in the area that sells ice cream anymore, we had to check this place out. Because amazing chocolate ice cream must mean they can do the same for hot chocolate, right? Twinkling with multicolored modern lights and paintings from local artists around the area, you could say that J.P. really captures the life of Brookline well.

Taste: Faint tones of chocolate, tasted more like milk with hints of cinnamon. We thought that overall it tasted just like cinnamon water, but this could be partially because it was made with skim milk. Either way, the chocolate taste was absent. Although, out of all the other drinks, J.P.’s had the most even and fluffy layer of foam on top.

Presentation: Stayed true to themselves with a sleek, black cup and a J.P. Licks logo on the front. We appreciated how they didn’t go all out, but kept to the more simple (cow-themed) aesthetic of the place.

Our experience here was disappointing, but granted, they are known for their ice cream and not their hot chocolate. So next time you come to J.P. Licks, come for a cold treat instead of a hot chocolate for a more tasty experience. Overall rating: 3/10, $3.20 without tax

Fourth Place: Paris Creperie

With its French theme and well-loved crepes, we both had high expectations for Paris Creperie’s hot chocolate drinks. The space was decorated with a whole collection of black and white photographs, colorful dishes, and a plush array of yellow and gray cushions. A section of the ceiling was covered with intricately carved, white tiles, and long, black light extensions hung over the seats, creating a vibrant space. All of their hot chocolate selections were Nutella-based, and although we tried their most standard Nutella hot chocolate, they had different flavors such as mint and raspberry.

Taste: The most noticeable aspect of their hot chocolate was the thick layer of foam that sat on top. Admittedly, it was difficult to taste the actual chocolate in the drink because of the foam for the first few sips. The drink definitely had that signature Nutella kick to it which is great for all you Nutella lovers, but surprisingly, the flavor was a little bland as there was a lot of milk in it overall. It had a much more subdued chocolate flavor in comparison to the rest of the other hot chocolates we tried, but it still had that hazelnut flavor that gave it a more unique taste.

Presentation: They had the most minimal designs out of all of the places we went to with a simple white mug and platter, and the to-go cup was also a simple white cup and lid with no designs.

French Creperie had really impressive decorations that fit well into the Parisian feel of the whole space, and the hot chocolate had that special Nutella flavor, but the drink overall was an uneventful experience. Maybe try the other flavors that they offer if you want a little more flavor to your hot chocolate here. Rate: 5/10, Price: $3.79 without tax

3rd Place: Starbucks

Although Starbucks is one of the most common cafes around, we still had to give their hot chocolate a quick taste test! If you’ve never been inside a Starbucks before, it’s usually bustling with chatter and movement and dimmed lights gives the space a cozy feeling. A lot of their drinks are very festive for the winter season and little Christmas decorations are placed around the cafe as well. Starbucks also has different kinds of hot chocolate available so if you’re ever bored of the classic hot chocolate, you can give some of the other flavors a shot!

Taste: Their hot chocolate was the most similar to Peet’s Coffee and had a really dark, deep chocolate flavor. The drink was topped with whipped cream and had an especially smooth texture to it. This is one of the most classic, conventional hot chocolates out there, so it’s a great place to stop by for a basic hot chocolate.

Presentation: Starbucks goes all out for the festive season! Our specific cup had a green diamond pattern with stars in the middle but Starbucks has a bunch of other cup designs ranging from red stripes to holly berry patterns. The cup sleeves are even customized to the holiday season with little sayings written in red to match the cups.

Starbucks gives you the classic hot chocolate that you need with the rich, dark chocolate flavor and whipped cream. The holiday cups will also put you in that festive mood! Rate: 7.5/10, Price: $3.15

Second Place: Peet’s Coffee

Situated right in the center of Coolidge Corner, Peet’s Coffee with its warm atmosphere and cozy quality was our very first destination. The huge windows on one side allow for a lot of natural lighting, giving the whole space a bright and airy feeling, and the soft, muted sounds of the cafe lend themselves to be a great place for getting some work done (although there aren’t a lot of seats). All of the employees there were also very welcoming and willing to help out, adding to the friendly tone of the whole room.

Taste: The hot chocolate from Peet’s Coffee was one of our favorites, coming in second only to Gen Sou En. The drink was made from a dark chocolate sauce, so if you prefer a richer flavor in your hot chocolates, this could be the place for you. This hot chocolate wasn’t as sweet as some of the other cafes we tried, but it still had a good balance of sugar and milk. There was also a nice layer of foam that wasn’t too excessive, and a small dollop of whipped cream with cocoa powder on top completed the drink.

Presentation: Peet’s Coffee had navy blue to-go cups decorated with little yellow stars and streaks. The design was fairly simple and had a charming feel that complimented the atmosphere of the cafe well.

Peet’s Coffee was an easily likable experience, from the rich hot chocolate flavor to the inviting staff, and this would be a great place to stop by if you’re ever having that hot chocolate craving! Rate: 8/10, $3.10 without tax

First Place: Gen Sou En

A relatively new restaurant in Coolidge, we walked into Gen Sou En with high expectations because it’s a tea house after all, so hopefully, they knew how to make a good, warm drink. If you’ve never been inside, it immediately reminded me of a modern hotel lobby with the white lights that looked like paper clouds, and a tree somehow standing inside under a skylight. The place is always bustling with young people studying on their computers, so make sure to snag a table when you see one available! (Note: hot chocolate is on their “secret menu” so you won’t see it on the board!)

Taste: Tasted like all that is good in the world. Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but from one hot chocolate fan to another, this one really impressed me. The balance of chocolate was perfect in that the sweetness wasn’t overpowering to the point where you felt sick, and it wasn’t too dark where it became bitter. Unlike most others, there wasn’t foam on top, but this was enjoyable because our first sip was the actual drink, not just a mouthful of foamed milk.

Presentation: The to-go cup was elegant, with black calligraphy brush strokes circling the outside. The hot sleeve was a festive red with more wispy brush strokes and their white logo in the center. We appreciated the minimalistic design that still remained true to the theme of the restaurant: casual, but classy!

Overall, Gen Sou En really was the best one of the night. It ticked off every box for texture, flavor, temperature, design, and more. Overall rating: 9/10,  $4 without tax.

**all prices are for size small