I realize I should probably be focusing on something more substantial for the second edition of my abroad column and not some hot drink minutiae, but some of my best work has come from rambling about how Dog Lane kicks ass
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my three weeks in Prague, it’s that the best hot chocolate I had in the States doesn’t hold up to the average one I’ve drank thus far on this side of the pond. That may seem a bit extreme, but this is truly a “don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it” type of thing.
Before I wax poetic about the liquid gold that is a good hot chocolate in an Old Town cafe, let me get something straight. American hot chocolate is garbage, on average. I only realize that now, since I’ve seen the other side of the curtain. The bottom rung of the hot chocolate ladder is just Swiss Miss dissolved in water, which isn’t just bad, it’s disrespectful to your soul. Using water (or wooder, if you’re Philadelphian like me) as the base of your drink is an affront to humanity and common decency. If you’re going to powder your cup, please use milk. Side note: I’m not even counting heated up Hershey’s syrup-style chocolate milk. Come on.
The middle rung of the ladder consists of traditional café mixes. I appreciate any café that puts in the extra time and effort to make the chocolate base themselves. At the top of the list comes truly good hot chocolate from top-tier cafés like Dog Lane. Even though I’m typing this 3,963 miles from the café that would be dragging me through the harsh Storrs winters right now, I feel a need to still pay my dues. Love you and miss you, Dog Lane.
Unfortunately, even the best American cafés don’t come close to the luxuriousness that is Czech hot chocolate, or “horká čokoláda” (horka chocolada). I’ve had multiple people in my abroad program describe it as not even hot chocolate and, in a way, they have a point. I’ve had cups that feel less like hot milk and more like a melted Ghirardelli bar. It’s the type of liquid consistency that makes you feel guilty about getting a pastry with your drink. Czech hot chocolate is so thick that it coats the back of your spoon – that is, if you can even gauge its viscosity without licking it off first.
The thing about hot chocolate is that it’s not all about the hot chocolate. You need to stick the landing. The whipped cream counts almost as much as the drink itself. A fantastic cup can be ruined by weak sauce whipped cream. Reddi-whip? Please. Every single café I’ve been to thus far has shown the care and love towards their customers to whip their own cream, and that means a lot.
I’m trying hard not to become “that guy who went to Europe for four months and comes back scoffing at everything American,” but my chances of evading that trope aren’t looking good. Tune in this Friday where I spend 2,000 words explaining how UConn Transportation could learn a lesson from the European transit system.
Daniel Cohn is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.