I should say one thing first, about myself and hot chocolate. There was a time (it lasted far longer than I should admit) when I considered a grande skim no-whip hot chocolate to be, essentially, a food group. There were many days, over many falls and winters, when this deliciously comforting drink comprised my entire lunch. And I was happy. But then I almost entirely gave up dairy, and then I cut way back on caffeine and chocolate, and for years now, I’ve considered hot chocolate a treat. Like a rare, two or three times a year treat. And I don’t want to waste those moments on hot chocolate that’s just…average.
I’d heard promising things about Craftsman Cliff Roasters, a coffee shop opened by a Norwich native in 2018. On a recent cold day, as snow struggled to melt into unsightly lumps by the roadside, I finally drove up to the Rose City to check it out. The space was small and cozy, with decor one might describe as nautical-hipster-eclectic-living room, and prettily decorated windows looked out on the city’s colorful downtown.
I’d read that Craftsman Cliff took their cacao seriously, roasting it themselves, just like their coffee. So I was slightly surprised (and relieved) that the drink I received looked so plain, without marshmallows, whipped cream, or other Instagram-ready fripperies. (OK, I admit, I was a little sad it wasn’t more Instagram-ready.) But it was thick, intensely chocolatey without being overwhelming, and not overly sweet: in short, way above average. Because I (sadly) cannot test all the hot chocolates in the land, I can’t say for certain whether this is in fact Connecticut’s best. But, as with Connecticut’s best cupcake, I’ll venture to say it’s one of them.
And if for some reason you’ve read this far and you’re not into hot chocolate, Craftsman Cliff also offers a variety of coffee and tea options, plus baked goods and other food – just in case you don’t consider hot chocolate a legitimate lunch.
Craftsman Cliff Roasters
34 Broadway, Norwich, CT, 06360