Hotel Chocolat Amsterdam – the real chocolate artisans
In the bustling heart of Amsterdam lies a new secret and unique experience: Hotel Chocolat.
Hotel Chocolat first opened its doors on the European continent on 15 June 2012 in Amsterdam. Unlike other chocolate producers worldwide Hotel Chocolat is a new type of chocolatier, combining the making of luxury chocolates and cocoa growing in one. During the opening of the first Hotel Chocolate in Amsterdam, I sat down to have a cocoa-chocolate tasting with Mr Angus Thirlwell, CEO and co-founder of the company.
Located in a traditional Dutch Townhouse and in the quaint shopping street Heiligeweg, is where you will find the first Amsterdam based Hotel Chocolat. The cocoa aroma’s and the wide variety of products on display is what catches my attention immediately as I enter the store. I am greeted and the hostess offers me some chocolate to taste a deliciously creamy milk chocolate, with just the right touch of sweetness. I see the most beautifully decorated gift boxes with mouthwatering chocolate combinations such as giant chocolate slabs adorned with caramel, cookies, and choc chips, Champagne truffles, gluten-free chocolates, alcohol-free truffles and many more. I also notice some funky experimental products such as Chocs to Chill, which are truffles just made for chilling!
For the opening of the store I am invited to go to the secret Coffee Vs Cocoa Bar upstairs the store. This setting combines easily with the rest of the store and adds a dimension of cozyness to the bar through the atmospheric oak paneled room. There is a nice menu featuring classic espresso’s, latte’s and capuccino’s as well as teas, with the signature choice to have your beverage made with coffee or cocoa beans, a concept that Hotel Chocolat first featured in the Edinburgh store.
After sampling some flavors from The Purist collection, I thought I died and gone to chocolate heaven! The Purist chocolates are made with the purest chocolate and from cocoa beans that have a distinctive flavor by its terroir – location, soil, sun, tropical downpours and its treatment after harvesting. The pinnacle of chocolate-making is featured in the The Purist – Rabot Estate, where the cocoa beans originate from the Hotel Chocolate Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia. This chocolate bar is 66% dark chocolate and in with the first bite cherries and cranberries are the first flavors to reveal themselves, followed by the honey-like flavor of figs. The middle of the tasting experience is a chocolately phase with roasted cocoa and some coffee. The finish shows a nice increasing bitterness with notes of liquorice and red wine tannins in a show of power and length….
My conversation with Mr Thirlwell continues, as he offers me a tea, and as soon as I have taken a sip I taste the intense chocolate flavor! He continues, when I ask him what makes Hotel Chocolat different from other chocolate brands, he answers that Rabot Estate is at the heart of what they do. Where other brands bring their products to consumers from cocoa bean to bar, Hotel Chocolat takes it one step further by offering chocolate lovers products from tree to bar. Hotel Chocolate has been growing its own cocoa since 2005 on the privately owned cocoa plantation Rabot Estate, on the West Indian island St Lucia. In addition to this the Rabot Estate has been the island’s oldest cocoa plantation dating back from 1745. The rare old Trinitario cocoa is farmed at Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia. In signature Hotel Chocolate stores the connection between cocoa grower and chocolatier is made. Customers are able to purchase the delicious chocolates and at the same time experience the chocolate before they go home. A varied and unique food and drink menu is featured with new and inspiring roasting techniques that influence taste of cocoa beans in your choice. Finally, the Hotel Chocolat experience is made complete by making a connection between the restaurateur and hotelier through The Hotel Chocolat & Boucan, the highly rated fine-dining concept, providing guests with the ultimate Hotel Chocolat experience. Created to sit perfectly in the stunning natural beauty of the rain forest surroundings, The Hotel Chocolat & Boucan are unique blends of Saint Lucian charm and sleek contemporary style. The Hotel features 14 luxe lodges with dramatic views of Saint Lucia’s Piton hills. The associated restaurant Boucan has also become the ultimate foodie destination, with a gastronimical concept that combines the sweet and savoury nature of cocoa farmed at Rabot Estate, together with the tropical produce found on Saint Lucia. The Hotel Chocolat and Boucan received the 2012 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence Award and was in the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List 2012! As you can imagine I immediately added this destination to my 1000 Places to See Before I Die.
In the mean time, foodies like myself are comforted with a whole product range of Cocoa Cuisine, available to start your Hotel Chocolat experience at home. Cocoa Cuisine is a revolutionary fusion concept with exciting products such as Caramel Smudge chocolate spread, Cocoa & Chilli Olive Oil, Cocoa & Honey Mustard Dressing, Seasoned Cocoa Glaze for meat, Penne Cocoa Pasta and much more. In my opinion Hotel Chocolat truly engages with its community to go beyond offering just chocolate, but an entire experience from tree to a beautiful chocolate product. All luxury chocolate products are available online, and each store offers Tasting Adventures to discover more and to gain insider knowledge and tasting tips about chocolate. Last but not least, the Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club invites customers to become coinaisseurs and take part in sustainable cocoa projects initiated by Hotel Chocolat across the world.
Hotel Chocolate was able to differentiate itself from other chocolate brands, and received various awards. Just to name a few: Most Advocated British brand in the UK. Hotel Chocolat placed fourth in the Top 10 Most Advocated Brands and was the only British brand to make the list. Furthermore, Hotel Chocolat a groundbreaking new concept for London with its Coffee Vs Cocoa Bar Roast and Conch, which opened quirky Seven Dials district of Covent Garden in London. The store brings together all the company’s activities under one roof – from cocoa growing and chocolate making, to innovative new cocoa-based drinks and food. In December 2011 Hotel Chocolat also opened a store in Edinburgh, Scotland, including a revolutionary Coffee versus Cocoa Bar - featuring a range of exclusive new drinks made possible by cocoa roasting techniques newly developed by Hotel Chocolat. The experience entails customers’choice from a traditional coffee menu and decide whether they would like their espresso, latte or capuccino prepared with freshly roasted coffee or cocoa beans!
As I made my way back home, I felt like what Patrick Skene Catling once said “Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate”. And at Hotel Chocolat they really know how to make it!
Hotel Chocolat Amsterdam | Heiligeweg 7 | http://www.hotelchocolat.co.uk
Monday 12.00 – 18.00
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Thursday 10.00 – 21.00
Sunday 12.00 – 17.00
The Hotel Chocolat & Boucan | Hotel Chocolat Estates Ltd | The Rabot Estate, PO Box 312 | Soufriere | St.Lucia, West Indies | http://www.thehotelchocolat.com