Anyone who's ever wanted a classic PB&J in hot drink form will be thrilled with this year's annual hot chocolate challenge in Lower Hutt.
A peanut butter and raspberry jam hot chocolate-smore hybrid is among the 20 contenders for 2022's Sweet As Hutt Hot Chocolate Challenge - but there's stiff competition including a savoury umami hot chocolate, a lamington-themed drink, and a gelato sundae masquerading as a "frozen" hot chocolate.
This year cafes and eateries in Lower Hutt are putting together events and competitions to run throughout the challenge, such as Hudsons cafe which will allow participants to sketch their favourite superhero and have the image printed onto their drink.
Owner Khushboo Badiyani bought a special machine ahead of the challenge which can print images on drinks, which she plans to continue using afterwards so customers can have coffees with their selfies printed on top, or a nice quote, or themed picture.
"It's just something fun, you know," she said.
During the challenge customers will be able to choose one of three superhero images to print on their hot chocolates.
Over at Bellbird Eatery manager Aroha Hibbert and her chef came up with the PB&J Smores drink for a touch of nostalgia.
Hibbert's nana used to make smores for her, she said.
The cafe has sourced a small butane torch to toast the marshmallow on top.
One new entrant was Jo Mortimer from lolly and gelato shop Jo's Sweet Treats.
Her entry, a chocolate gelato sundae, was cheekily described as a "frozen hot chocolate".
Mortimer had sought advice from nearby eateries and was told whatever she submitted for the challenge should be something she was able to serve quickly and easily to customers.
"The advice I had was keep it simple because if you get busy you want to be able to crank it through," she said.
Hutt City Council city centre lead Cyndi Christensen said this year's event had record numbers, with 20 operators taking part in the challenge.
Beginning in 2015, the challenge allows people to try signature hot chocolates from participating cafes and eateries for two and a half weeks, then vote on their favourites through QR codes.
This year organisers are introducing competitions and events, as they work towards turning it into a full-blown festival.
One competition at Fix Federation challenges customers to eat a doughnut and drink their hot chocolate faster than other competitors.
Meanwhile The Chocolate Story will be hosting French hot chocolate tastings, and Buzz cafe will hold a death by chocolate evening.
There will also be Hot Chocolate karaoke and a hot chocolate quiz night at Cutlers.
There will also be three community events called "Design Your own Hot Chocolate" featuring a mystery box of ingredients to make and taste a unique hot chocolate.
Christensen said people often travelled to the Wellington region to join in the challenge, which was originally started as a way to encourage people into the city centre during winter and help eateries gain new customers.
This year's challenge runs from July 7-24. The full list of hot chocolates available will be on the event's Facebook page.