A fond childhood memory for many, one of the great traditions of fall and winter endures despite the test of time. Who doesn’t love to share a cup of hot cocoa with family and friends? While the origins of the drink remain a mystery, researchers believe the Mayan and Aztec civilizations created the first beverages from cocoa. Since then, several methods to liquify chocolate have emerged, including melted chocolate or using a mix of cocoa powder, milk, sugar, special flavorings, marshmallows and/or whipped cream. Some add cinnamon or pepper to give the drink an extra kick. However, if you don’t have the proper ingredients, worry not! Tampa Bay has several divine cafes and chocolatiers, as well as a chocolate festival, where you can enjoy decadent choco-concoctions.
5731 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617
Recently designated as one of America’s best coffee shops by The Huffington Post, Cafe Kili lives up to its reputation through the quality of its products. In business since 2007, Rose Waruinge and her husband Patrick opened Cafe Kili to reflect the world of her parents, coffee growers from Kenya. Kili sells crafts from Kenya, provides a space for concerts and its “Heroes Corner” serves as a memorial for soldiers killed in the line of duty, including one of Waruinge’s own sons. Well known for its quality coffee, sandwiches and pleasant ambiance, Cafe Kili also serves up a mean cup of hot chocolate. For caffeine and flavor enthusiasts, you can also add a shot of espresso or a syrup, as well as try a variety of blended frozen drinks.
11706 N. 51st St.
Tampa, FL 33617
Similarly reputed for its drinks and atmosphere, Felicitous is an ideal place to relax, hold an informal meeting or study. Located in a building originally constructed as a home, the owners succeeded at carrying on the comfortable vibe through Felicitous’ transition to becoming a business. Homemade cupcakes and other pastries provide a perfect accompaniment for the shop’s delightful coffee, tea or hot chocolate. For the latter, Felicitous boasts exotic flavors, such as the light chocolate with raspberry, Chai hot chocolate, the Earl Grey-infused “Swiss Earl” and the “Mississippi Mud” specialty with espresso.
Sweet Divas Chocolates
400 Beach Drive N.E., Suite 181
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
A creative twist on the classic chocolate shop, Sweet Divas combines the best in high-quality cacao with the ego and swagger of famous divas from pop music. While the hot chocolate is delicious, what really stands out about Sweet Divas is its theme and decor. While here, don’t miss funky sweet inventions like the Tina toffee Turner cupcake or the homemade ice cream with pumpkin, coconut and chocolate-peanut butter flavors. In the heart of downtown St. Petersburg and open late (until at least 9 p.m. every night), this jewel of all things chocolate is worth the commute if you live on the other side of the Bay.
Related: Best Milkshakes in Tampa
Palmer Plaza – Clark-Honore Shopping Center
5170 Clark Road
Sarasota, FL 34233
Carol Sirard has spent over 30 years in the chocolate business, and this expertise shows in her work. Originally from the sales side of the business, she studied in Belgium and decided to launch her own shop. Now in its fourth location, the Cafe at Sirard’s store in Sarasota serves classic hot chocolate as well as a variety of exotic variations, including caramel, raspberry, vanilla and Aztec spiced cocoa. Each are served with a chocolate-covered spoon or pretzel. You can also find fresh pastries and gourmet savory meals, like quinoa and black bean burgers, vegan panini, fresh salads and mole pork sandwiches.
1540 N. Franklin Ave.
Tampa, FL 33602
Centrally located in downtown Tampa, Cafe Hey stands by tradition with an original-style hot chocolate, topped with both whipped cream and marshmallows. Hey also crafts several specialty drinks that include chocolate, such as the banana and macadamia “Gorilla Hug,” the cinnamon and chili “Red Hot Latte,” the Peppermint Mocha and a ginger hot chocolate. On Thursday and Friday nights, respectively, Cafe Hey features open mic sessions and the Croon Saloon with live performances from local musical acts. The cafe also provides gallery space for local artists, with one hundred percent of sales going straight to their creators.
The Festival of Chocolate
4801 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617
With stops in Orlando and Ft. Lauderdale, the Festival of Chocolate will come to Tampa for the fourth year in a row in 2014, from Saturday January 18th to Monday the 20th. Vendors and exhibitions will include a chocolate fashion show, gourmet baking houses, chocolate wine specialists, confectionaries and famous local chocolatiers, such as William Dean. His artistic oeuvres were featured in the movie “The Hunger Games,” and will make another appearance in the film’s sequel. Last year, the organizers of the festival attempted, and succeeded, at beating the world record for the largest mug of hot chocolate, filled with some 880 gallons of hot cocoa. Chocolate lovers can take advantage of this great, family-friendly event with free entry with the purchase of a ticket for MOSI, Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry.
Related: Best Autumn Desserts In Tampa Bay
Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he’s excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at Examiner.com.