I love surprises. Unpredictability is a beautiful thing, and it’s something that we, as human beings, search out in all aspects of our lives. We look for it in film, in literature – in our jobs and relationships too.
Surprises come in many shapes and sizes, be it a party, or perhaps an unexpected message from an old friend. In fact, it could be anything at all, and that’s the beauty of it.
Back in October, I was still very new to Southampton, both academically and geographically. I remember that our first semester had only just ‘really’ started, and on this particular day I’d been burying myself in new and unfamiliar course material – in the form of the Old English language. Having spent the day reading and studying for a course that did eventually turn out to be full of surprises, I decided to take a break and walk into Portswood, the town closest to my university.
I’m a firm believer in Tom Haverford’s philosophy – of treating yo’self – and when I came across a gorgeous coffee shop I hadn’t seen before, I absolutely had to go in. It was an unexpected visit, but any hot chocolate opportunity that presents itself is an opportunity that should be taken.
Coffee#1 is an absolute gem of a coffee shop, and one of the reasons I love it so much is its atmosphere; it’s a clean, open space that seems to be a firm favourite among students and residents of Southampton alike. Apart from the fact that they offer a huge selection of food and drinks – so you’re bound to find something you love – it’s very well organised, with tables and chairs that are close enough together that it’s cosy, but at enough of a distance that it doesn’t feel overcrowded even at peak time.
As a company, Coffee#1 own over 50 coffee houses across the country, but speaking for the Portswood store absolutely does not mean that I’m able to speak for any of the others in the chain; each individual store is home to its own little piece of history, each with its own individual character. It’s worth mentioning that when I say history, I do not mean that it’s old fashioned in any way. In fact, it’s quite the contrary; they often pair together unusual and novel ingredients, and are certainly no strangers to innovation. When I first visited the store, for example, it was coming up to Halloween, and there was an abundance of pumpkin-flavoured twists on classic baked goods. As I’m sure you can imagine, I was immensely excited to see what the hot chocolate would be like having read the options on their menu.
I paid £3.00 for a regular sized ‘hot chocolate deluxe’ – deciding to treat myself to the good stuff after that long morning of studying. There was a lot of cream and chocolate powder – but to my surprise, there were no marshmallows in sight! The marshmallows are usually the defining factor of a ‘deluxe’ hot chocolate, but I accepted my fate and started spooning up the cream.
A little bubble appeared on the surface, which didn’t look like cream or hot chocolate. In mild confusion, I continued to scoop it up. Then, to my surprise, appeared a lone marshmallow – followed by another, and then another.
Once all the cream had gone, there was a layer of marshmallows that had partially melted, separating the hot chocolate and the cream. I had never had hot chocolate in this way before – and it was a complete revelation.
Normally the cream just sits on the hot chocolate, eventually melting into a frothy mess or dissolving, making the chocolate either too sweet or simply unpleasant in texture. This gorgeous addition, however, had a texture reminiscent of toasted marshmallows as it melded with some of the chocolate.
After a brilliant mixture of toppings, I finally got to the hot chocolate – and, again, I was not disappointed. It was intense and sweet simultaneously, reminding me a little of the Caffe Nero recipe. That and the remnants at the bottom of the cup lead me to believe that it was made from a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar.
Coffee#1 is an absolute delight, with good quality drinks, brilliant service, and a lovely open space ideal for working or relaxing. This coffee house is full of lots of little twists on the traditional.
Surprises come in many shapes and sizes, and sometimes an unexpected marshmallow is enough to make your day.