Lower Hutt could have a full-on hot chocolate festival on its hands, depending on the success of a local challenge this year.
The Sweet As Hutt's Hot Chocolate Challenge, which began in 2015, involves local cafes putting forth a signature hot chocolate creation and customers voting for their favourite.
"I was trying to find an interesting way to draw people out into the CBD and rediscover their city centre," said Hutt City Council CBD development manager Cyndi Christensen.
As far as she is aware the hot chocolate challenge is the only one in Australasia.
This year, she and other organisers are including special masterclasses this year as a way of gauging whether there's enough interest to turn the annual challenge into a festival.
Masterclasses run by Colab Cafe include chocolate making, a kids cupcake class, a chocolate cake decorating class, how to make the perfect cafe-style hot chocolate, and hot chocolate from around the globe.
"This is kind of a transitional year to see if we can really step it up to become a festival," Christensen said.
She estimates about 15,000 hot chocolates have been sold during the challenge since 2015.
Customers are given a "passport" with pages dedicated to each cafe's hot chocolate creation. They must give each drink a rating from 1-5, and ratings are added up to pick a winner.
Last year's winner was the "Hot and all that Jazz" drink from Buzz Cafe.
Owner Michael Gray said his focus this year isn't on taking home the title again, but simply bringing new people in the door.
His slow cooker peanut butter hot chocolate will be topped with cream cheese whipped cream, peanut butter sauce, and a Reese's Piece.
"Participation is the important thing. It's not about winning, it's about getting customers in there. That's the win. Last year we got so many people in the door that hadn't been here before and that's the win."
During last year's challenge, his cafe sold more than 900 hot chocolates.
"That was a significant increase in turnover."
He'll also be running a hot chocolate buffet this Saturday, as well as a Death by Hot Chocolate night later in the month.
Christensen said one of the most unique flavours that has come out in previous years was from Coronation Coffee Shoppe in 2015, producing a rose-infused cardamom hot chocolate.
This year some of the flavours on offer from the 16 cafes involved include a white chocolate drink infused with honey and lavender, a red velvet hot chocolate, and a s'more-themed drink.
The challenge kicks off tomorrow and runs until July 29.