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Where to find best hot chocolate around metro Atlanta

For Kathryn Floyd, a certain romance began like it does for many. While attending Agnes Scott University, a chance meeting was all it took. Instantly, the relationship brought inner warmth and sweet sensation. She kept coming back for more.

Floyd fell hard for hot chocolate.

Now studying at Georgia State University, Floyd finds herself sharing her love for the toasty beverage with others, serving hot chocolate and more at Java Monkey, the downtown Decatur coffee shop where her liquid affair began.

Winter months mean countless others cuddle up with hot chocolate, a cozy and sugary alternative to the caffeinated jolt of coffee, but with an equal amount of warming power.

We took a look behind the counters of several hot chocolate purveyors to better understand that warm embrace. Now it’s time to kiss and tell.

Cafe Jaya

Jeff Carey, co-owner of Cafe Jaya, a nonprofit coffee shop and eatery in Stone Mountain Village, begins his hot chocolate preparation by steaming the milk with help from the store’s espresso machine. “It gives it a lighter and fluffier texture,” he said. Customers choose from either whole, almond or soy milk. Want to go decadent? Carey says he’ll even use heavy cream. After steaming it, he simply pours the liquid into a mug of chocolate syrup. The staff at Jaya typically uses Torani chocolate syrup for its rich and dark tinges. If they run out, they opt for Ghirardelli. Offset any sugar-laden guilt knowing Cafe Jaya’s annual profits go to a trio of charities: AARF Pet Central, Community Connections and Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse. 947 Main St., Stone Mountain. 678-439-5292,

Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate

You could call Elaine Read and Matt Weyandt a pair of organic-minded Willy Wonkas. While living in Costa Rica, the married couple studied under local chocolatiers, learning how to create chocolate bars from craft beans. Today their pure imagination flows through their shop and micro factory in Krog Street Market, which specializes in handcrafted chocolate bars. (For more about the story behind Xocolatl, go to the AJC’s Personal Journey about Read and Weyandt at Read and Weyandt decided to create a drinking chocolate, served frozen in the warmer months and hot when temps drop. They started with the liquid version of their Kissed Mermaids bar made with Nicaraguan cacao, coconut milk and cane sugar. House-made coconut whipped cream sits on top. Flavors rotate in and out, including the Peppermint Bliss, the drinkable answer to their Mint Chocolate Chip bar, featuring organic dried peppermint.

99 Krog St., Atlanta. 404-604-9642,

Beautiful Earth Organics

The theme of this gift shop, which also sells coffee and desserts, can be found in its name. The owners go primarily organic across the board, from the cannolis and other baked treats displayed behind glass to the soy candles made in house. And it rings true in Beautiful Earth’s coffee, tea and hot chocolate, too. In the latter, you’ll find organic powdered cacao, sugar, cinnamon, spring water, steamed milk and other ingredients. Owner Mark Trettel usually treats kids to a nice heap of whipped cream on top. For adults, he crowns the drink with milk froth. Choose from 12-ounce or 16-ounce versions, served hot or iced.

300 Willowbend Road, Suite 19, Peachtree City. 770-486-1400,

Ebrik Coffee Room

Georgia State University students flock to this downtown spot, especially during lunchtime hours. Ebrik — it’s the Turkish word for coffeepot — sells copious amounts of the cardamom spiced Turkish coffee, a drink that takes approximately 10 minutes to prepare. Its hot chocolate proves less labor-intensive. Baristas use Ghirardelli’s sweet ground chocolate and cocoa with steamed milk. Upon request, they’ll top with whipped cream. Want something with a bit more kick? Gina’s Brownie Latte Hot Cocoa has the staff pouring the regular hot chocolate into a mixture consisting of hazelnut syrup and two shots of espresso.

16 Park Place S. S.E., Atlanta. 404-330-0119,

Java Monkey

After using an espresso machine to steam a small pitcher of whole milk, Floyd, the barista on duty, slides a large yellow mug across the counter. Inside sits a steaming swirl of brown and white. The marbleization occurs, Floyd says, “because of the difference in consistency and weight between the milk and syrup.” In addition to the chocolate syrup, Floyd puts a bit of house-made vanilla into the mug. She crowns it all with a generous squirt of Java Monkey’s own whipped cream. The coffee shop, steps away from Decatur Square, features live music, stand-up comedy and spoken word in the evenings.

425 Church St., Decatur. 404-378-5002,

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