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I Ranked Cafes in St Andrews for Hot Chocolate: Here Are the Results

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With autumn and winter around the corner, deadlines loom, wind speed and rainfall multiply, and the sky turns several shades darker. Especially for those who aren’t used to such stark changes in seasons, surviving Scotland’s dreary weather can sometimes feel like a losing battle. However, in my first year, I stumbled across the ultimate solution: hot chocolate. It’s always been one of my favorite drinks, but living in St Andrews has nudged a deeper appreciation into existence: it was my prime motivator during particularly harrowing essay-writing sessions, an ideal treat during bitingly cold Friday movie nights, and the perfect way to start off days with jammed schedules.  

Hot chocolate has historically been enjoyed for centuries: as early as 500 BC, where it was mixed with chili and cornmeal by the Mayan people; to 16th century Europe, where it gained popularity among the ruling class in Spain and Britain; to London in the 1700s, where it fostered the spread of cafes. So, as a love letter to my favorite holiday drink and those who love it as much as I do, I’ve constructed my personal ranking (best to worst) for the hot chocolate in St Andrews. My ranking is in no way objective, so I’ve tried to give appropriate recommendations for each type of hot chocolate based on who would most enjoy them.

  1. We Are Zest Cafe

My absolute favorite hot chocolate of all time is from Zest. While it wasn’t overwhelmingly rich—it was neither bitter nor syrupy—the milk and sugar definitely came secondary to the very powerful cocoa flavor. It was a bit on the chalky side, for those who are sensitive to texture, but the hot chocolate had a very natural, satisfying flavor. It’s absolutely perfect for chocolate lovers and this, coupled with the its delicious brunch and all-day breakfast, mark Zest as a cafe I plan on returning to often. 

  1. The Old Union 

The Old Union hot chocolate isn’t particularly rich in flavor, but definitely has a very discernible chocolate taste. It’s not too intense, but the milk provides a baseline for the chocolate flavor, rather than adding much of its own—it’s very balanced. The drink isn’t at all bitter, but I definitely wouldn’t call it particularly sweet either. All in all, the Old Union is a very safe bet for hot chocolate, regardless of personal preference; it has a very balanced combination of milk, chocolate, and sweetener, and there are no additional flavors which pop out jarringly. Plus, the low lighting and old tavern ambiance give it several bonus points: it sets the ideal backdrop for romanticizing studying! [I’ve also found this hot chocolate is nearly identical in taste to the hot chocolate at Rector’s Cafe.]

  1. Jarvie’s of St Andrews

I remember walking into the courtyard with Jarvie’s and audibly gasping when I saw its storefront: the tables and surroundings of its outdoor seating area are blooming with various plants and its interior is charmingly decadent, decked with antique clocks, sepia toned photos, and dark blue brick walls. The hot chocolate didn’t at all disappoint: it had a very distinct chocolate taste which was incredibly rich and warm. The milk and chocolate combined very well to feel more like a singular flavor rather than two competing. It was sweet, but not overwhelmingly so; all in all, it tasted like a less intense brownie in the form of a hot drink. I would recommend it to anyone who loves chocolate but doesn’t need their hot chocolate to taste too dark. The cafe is absolutely one of St Andrew’s hidden gems; it’s perfect for curling up with a book on a rainy day or having a laugh with friends at its outdoor seating if, by some miracle, the weather permits. [I would say this is a slightly richer version of the chocolate from Costa Coffee.]

  1. The Cottage Kitchen 

I’d never yet been to The Cottage Kitchen, but was immediately struck by how much I loved the general ambiance; the staff were so friendly and accommodating and the storefront and its interior were very quaint. Its hot chocolate was similarly lovely: it was fairly milky, but this only served to complement its light chocolate flavor, and didn’t taste overpowering. Neither the chocolate, milk, or sweetener overwhelmed the drink, so, all in all, a very generic hot chocolate. Overall, I would recommend The Cottage Kitchen’s hot chocolate to those who aren’t fond of strong chocolate flavors; it’s perfect for those who don’t like coffee or dark chocolate, who are looking for some liquid form of a Cadbury’s chocolate bar and have a bit of a sweet tooth. This drink would be particularly enjoyable during the holidays! [I’ve found similar tasting hot chocolate at Gorgeous, the Con Panna Coffee Shop, Five Acres, and, for a lower quality version, Starbucks.]

  1. Taste

Taste is one of my favorite cafes, and it’s definitely a student favorite, judging from its frequently extensive line. However, I was surprised and slightly disappointed to find that its hot chocolate left much to be desired for me personally. It had a very faint and diluted chocolate taste and was far too milky. I would describe it more as milk with bits of chocolate flavor rather than chocolate with milk. In a far less generous description, I thought it tasted a bit like hot water, as I really struggled to discern any distinct flavor. Luckily, Taste has very excellent coffee and croissants, and is often inhabited by some very friendly canine visitors; so, it’s still absolutely a worthwhile cafe to go to, just not specifically for its hot chocolate. 

Happy hot chocolate season!

Jinny Okumura

St. Andrews '26

Hi, I'm Jinny (but I also go by Jo)! I'm studying English and philosophy at the University of St Andrews – I love Taylor Swift, reading and writing, pasta, and know a scarily extensive amount of random animal facts.