Walla Walla Offers Photogenic Cocoa
I’ve always had a bit of trouble with hot cocoa.
Neutered of the sexy acridness found in coffee, the drink that we often appropriate as hot chocolate has always seemed to me to be suspiciously docile. Inoffensive and innocent, it makes sense why it’s probably most often drunk by kids and grown men who really, really like their mothers; I imagine that Norman Bates often settled down to a nice cup of cocoa. Yet despite its vaguely oedipal aura, the Great American Myth surrounding hot chocolate has endured. A cup of cocoa, a warm fire and a belly rub from mum is apparently all some individuals yearn for during these cold winter months.
My charge was to amble about the hallowed grounds of our college town to sip and savor what some nearby coffee shops are serving up, and I did just that. I rated the drinks using two indexes: “Quaffability,” which indicates taste, and “Instagrammability,” which indicates the photogenic nature of the drink when put through an evocative retro-looking filter and posted online for strangers to look at.
I went to four local shops. I tried four cocoas. Let the sipping commence:
Deciding to commit treason to my righteous consumer practices, I first popped into Walla Walla’s iteration of everyone’s corporate caffeine outlet. The Walla Walla Starbucks—which I’ve always rather liked for its central location and perpetual bustle—was sure to provide a solid foundation for the next two tastings. The hot chocolate I had was really sweet and tasted kind of like chalk, but looked surprisingly good on Instagram. It’s also worth noting that my experience was enhanced by the fact that I wasn’t the only one frowning at and diddling about on his iPad, but one of many people frowning at and diddling about on their iPads. I felt like I was part of something greater than my own self.
Quaffability rating: sippable
Instragrammability: surprisingly good
With Coffee Perk just around the bend, it was my next logical stop. The hot cocoa itself looked exactly the same as Starbucks’, but when observed carefully from the right angle and in the right lighting it could be seen as having a tad more “endearing local color,” which certainly contributed to what I would qualify as a relatively high Instagrammability index. The taste itself was a little more restrained than Starbucks’, as it was both less sweet and less chalky. My friend took a sip and resolutely concluded it was made with Hershey’s syrup, though I never asked.
Instagrammability: relatively high
Colville Street Patisserie:
The Patisserie’s hot chocolate was the best by far, which wasn’t really a surprise because the joint tends to churn out quality foodstuffs. The hot chocolate here is a thick, rich elixir that comes with a delicate clot of fresh whipped cream which bears resemblance to the swanky “drinking chocolate” that has been trending of late in specialty chocolate shops, though maybe this one isn’t quite as heavy. And come on—it’s the Patisserie—so you know this stuff is gonna be pretty damn Instagrammable. The quaint geometry of the room makes for a cocoa-drinking environment that’s less cozy than Starbucks or Coffee Perk, so if you are really looking to participate in the Great American Myth surrounding hot chocolate, this might not be the best place to receive a belly rub from mum.
Quaffability: quite quaffable
Instagrammability: so high that you might break Instagram
Reid Campus Center:
Last but not least, I tried the hot chocolate on our own campus. Even though a rather large line was beginning to form around the coffee kiosk, Kathy—one of two workers present that hour—made my drink with patience and love. After Kathy skillfully combined the chocolate syrup and steamed milk, I was handed over a sweet, pleasant drink. It certainly wasn’t any sort of artisan product, but I still enjoyed myself as I drank it. It was also pretty Instagrammable, too.
Instagrammability: pretty Instagrammable
And so my quest came to a close. At the end of my chocolatey journey, The Patisserie’s hot chocolate was the best aesthetically and in taste. But at the end of the day, all of these places had something to offer: I enjoyed my time at each.