I’ve been a fan of Hotel Chocolat for a long time. In fact, I used to get their tasting boxes before they were even rebranded as Hotel Chocolat. I loved getting a surprise box every month and rating them based on the different flavours. I stopped getting the boxes when I started to concentrate on my fitness but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to the giant slabs and extra thick eggs I get off my Mum at Christmas and Easter. So when Hotel Chocolat in the Arndale invited me to try their chocolate tasting experience I thought I’d know all I could about the brand and their range.
We were greeted with a glass of fizz and shown to a table with a little cup which is apparently for if we need to ‘spit out’ or leave any of the chocolate. I actually laughed my head off at this, had they met me?!
The chocolatier at the Manchester store talked to the group about the tasting club and how the first Hotel Chocolat store was opened in 2004. She talked about the three areas that chocolate affects – emotional reaction, memory and descriptive. At sight it should look shiny and even without any grey film. You should also listen to your chocolate. Not because it is going to speak to you or anything but because it should have a clean snap. It should have no air bubbles in the centre. You should then let the chocolate melt in your mouth to get a fully rounded experience of its taste.
We tried so many chocolates from different regions of the world (did you know the country it is made in can affect the taste dramatically due to the climate and soil?), different percentage cocoa as well as some of the filled chocolates you can buy at Hotel Chocolat.
Hotel Chocolat use 60 cocoa beans per bar compared with 3 beans per bar that your generic commercial chocolate uses. I was shocked at the difference but it certainly shows in the quality. The beans and pods are fermented for 3-5 days before being dried either in the sun or over a fire. The beans are then roasted and put in a conch to smooth and mellow the flavour.
We also got to try the roasted beans. They are like nuts which we shelled to reveal the cocoa bean inside. The taste was slightly bitter but hard like a nut and I was pleasantly surprised. I couldn’t stop munching on them!
The champagne truffle is still my favourite with a hard shell and the champagne centre using real champagne rather than a liqueur like many others. The billionaires shortbread was also tasty, one I will be buying in the future.
The 2 hour experience flew by and we learnt so much about the chocolate making process as well as trying that many chocolates that, I have to admit, I did need to use my little cup. I was tempted to put it in my bag for later but dignity got the better of me.
You can book on the experience for £50 which also includes 10% off in store and a goodie bag.