The Best Places to Sip Hot Chocolate Around Baltimore
Sip unique versions of classic cocoa at these local spots.
By Aliza Li
Illustrations by Alicia Corman
The store-bought stuff might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about hot chocolate, but in Baltimore, there are plenty of places that take the steamy sip far beyond packets of powdered cocoa. Take Pillion Tea, pictured below, in Midtown-Belvedere, for example. In addition to the subterranean shop’s wide array of teas, it also whips up a unique dark hot chocolate with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and salt—topped with vegan marshmallows for good measure.
“The combination of sweet, heat, and creaminess in hot chocolate brightens up the gray days,” says Pillion Tea co-owner Zena Lichter. “It’s an emotionally warm and comforting moment that brings a smile.”
More happiness-inducing cups—ranging from European sipping chocolate to decadent hot Nutella—can be found at these spots across town this season.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JUSTIN TSUCALAS
1001 S. Charles St., 410-244-0909
This Korean-owned Federal Hill favorite is full of Asian treats and one-of-a-kind drinks, like the hot Nutella—a hazelnut twist on hot chocolate. If you don't like hazelnut, stick with the classic hot chocolate, which can be enhanced with marshmallows or peppermint. Or try pairing a drink with taiyaki, a Japanese fishshaped pastry that comes with fillings like cinnamon cream cheese.
1500 Union Ave., 410-235-1881
Everyone knows hot chocolate and marshmallows are the perfect pairing, but this Union Mill coffee shop kicks the combo up a notch by using shaved chocolate and house-made toasted marshmallow fluff. Add graham cracker crumble and espresso to make it a cozy S’mores Latte.
801 W. 36th St., 410-814-0493
This season, head to the popular ice cream parlor (which operates five locations from Hampden to Columbia) to savor its piping-hot cups of cocoa with massive hunks of homemade marshmallows.
3100 Greenmount Ave., 443-835-1636
Responsibly sourced cacao beans—roasted and ground in-house—are at the heart of Jinji Fraser’s handmade sweets. Swing by her new Waverly storefront to pair your truffles and fudge with a hot chocolate garnished with toasted vegan marshmallows.
802 S. Broadway, 410-236-0741
Don’t let the cold weather drive you away from this Fells Point gelato shop. In addition to frozen treats, Pitango serves a rich Italian sipping chocolate made with Domori cocoa and organic milk and sugar.
10751 Falls Road, Lutherville, 410-821-1358
The hot chocolate at this Green Spring Station stalwart is a homey mix of French-sourced Valrhona cocoa powder, steamed milk, and homemade marshmallows. Customize it with whipped cream and flavored syrups.
1401 Aliceanna St., 410-522-1907
For sugar fiends, there’s no better drink than this Harbor East cafe’s aptly named Chocoholic’s Choice—a rich blend of semi-sweet chocolate powder and milk with whipped cream on top.
Speaking of Sugar:
Maple Sugaring: The Sweet Life
Maple sugaring has been a way of life for more than a century on farms in Western Maryland, once one of the centers of the maple syrup industry in the U.S. In the 1930s, there were an estimated 40 to 50 commercial tree-tapping operations in Garrett County alone, producing 200,000 gallons of maple sugar annually.
Though on a smaller scale, maple sugaring still thrives in the state’s western counties. Family-owned Steyers Brothers Maple in Oakland, for example, has been producing its Garrett County Pure Maple Syrup for more than 100 years—and is open to visitors today. (They also make a nice maple sugar candy.) The Casselman Inn, built in 1842 along the historic National Trail, continues to serve its own maple syrup (and homemade apple butter) with their buckwheat cakes, French toast, and biscuits. The eco-friendly Savage River Lodge in Allegany County uses its own maple syrup to flavor its popular crème brûlée. At Cunningham State Falls State Park in Frederick County, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hosts the nearly 50-year-old annual Maple Syrup Festival.
But Baltimoreans need not travel that far for introduction to maple sugaring, a practice which originates with North America’s Indigenous peoples. Beginning after President’s Day, many local parks offer annual maple sugaring events, where participants can observe the tapping of trees and the collection of sap, which begins to flow when temperatures fall below freezing at night and then rise again during the day. The best part? Learning how the sap—98-percent water, two-percent sugar—gets boiled down to golden brown syrup, and then sampling maple candies and syrup and pancakes afterward. Among other destinations, check for times and dates at: Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Oregon Ridge Nature Center in Cockeysville, Irvine Nature Center in Owings Mills, Cromwell Valley Park in Parkville, Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville, and Marshy Point Nature Center in Middle River. —Ron Cassie