I made no secret of it. Yesterday I boarded the train from “oop north” and headed down to sunny London again to a very swanky top floor apartment a stone’s throw away from Selfridges. And the reason? Of course it was chocolate related. It was to see what the lovely (and incredibly generous) people at Hotel Chocolat had planned for this Christmas.
I work with a number of clients whose main selling period is Christmas and I’m busy beavering away helping make sure they sell as much online as they can during the period, so it “summer in July” wasn’t much of an issue. But it was actually still strange being surrounded by such a wide variety of Christmas produce, and, of course, being in such a luxurious setting.
What I love about Hotel Chocolat is that they manage to step out from the single origin, single estate Purist bars and try and into in an overtly commercial but novel chocolate world of chocolate Christmas trees, huge chocolate wreaths, fine chocolate advent colanders, ginger bread liquid chocolate, miniature chocolate dinners, tiddly chocolate reindeers and an hugely excessive (and difficult to carry) Christmas cracker full to the brim of chocolates. With Hotel Chocolat this year, you’ll be filling your boots with fun.
I came away with a massive gift bag of chocolate that was equally difficult to carry. The looks I had from commuters on the tube were hilarious. There was me looking through all the Christmas chocolates and there were a good number of women that I could tell were thinking “I’ve not seen that before. Where did he get it?” Thankfully I didn’t the opportunity to point them in the direction of the press launch.
Over the next few months I’ll be going through what I managed to pick up and schedule the posts for October, November and December so they’ll coincide when you’ll be thinking of your Christmas chocolates. But just think of me as I’m chewing on a chocolate log in mid-August (it’s a hard life). Now I’m not sure if I can give full details yet. But other than these wonderful novelty Christmas chocolates, there were some amazing looking selection boxes – the dark one stood out most to me and I’ll be putting that at the top of the list to try.
But, my chocolate thoughts are mostly taken up with visions of the perfect dark chocolate bar. I spend far too much time finding chocolatiers around the world that I can try the tablet creations of. Now Hotel Chocolat have greatly expanded their Purist ranges which current extends to (* = I’ve got some to try and (d) means I’ve got duplicates and I’m going to think up a competition so you can win them):
- 100% Dark Organic – Hacienda iara, Ecuador *
- 50% Milk – Island Growers, Saint Lucia *
- 50% Milk with Caramel – Island Growers, Saint Lucia
- 65% Dark 120hr Conch – Island Growers, Saint Lucia
- 65% Dark 120hr Conch – Rabot Estate, Saint Lucia * (d)
- 65% Dark 96hr Conch – Island Growers, Saint Lucia * (d)
- 70% Dark – Chuao, Venezuela *
- 70% Milk – Rabot Estate, Saint Lucia * (d)
- 72% Dark Organic – Alto El Sol, Peru
- 80% Dark Organic – Hacienda iara, Ecuador
- 90% Dark Organic – Hacienda iara, Ecuador
But there’s something interesting about what they’re doing, and I haven’t seen it before. It’s that they’re giving you the opportunity to really witness first-hand how a different process can affect the resultant flavour of the bars. With the Saint Lucia I’ll be able to tell (I’ve only just realised that I’ve got slightly different bars) – I would be able to tell the difference a longer conching time makes in softening the inherent acidity in the cocoa from the Rabot Estate. Thankfully I could definitely pick up the difference when I actually got to taste them at the press event. I wonder if anyone else could.
I also picked up a small 35g Venezuela Chuao which I’ll compare with the Amano Chuao bar from Paul A. Young and I’ll have to get the Amedei Chuao and do a big comparison.
And they’ve got a load of accompaniments that I’ve not noticed too. Along with the cocoa pasta, they’ve got marmalade chocolate smudge and some other stuff coming out soon such as seasoned chocolate glaze for meat, some chilli and chocolate glaze for fish and poultry, some cocoa honey & mustard, chipotle and loads of other stuff! Keep going back to their site to see what’s new.
But it doesn’t stop there! They’ll be opening (touch wood) a proper Hotel Chocolat i.e. someone where you can stay, Saint Lucia from the beginning of January. I’ll have to see if I can get a discount, but it looks absolutely amazing! And for any true chocolate fan, it’s a must visit location as there are plenty of chocolate related activities available if you so wished. One of the big things they’re playing on is fantastic food with a touch of a cocoa theme – without going over the top. I’ve been lucky to try some of it, and absolutely loved it!
It’ll be hard work keeping up with what they’re doing this year!