Over a cup of creamy hot chocolate in Sketch, Jennifer Earle takes our small group through the history and production of the world’s favourite candy. We talk cocoa percentages and fat content, sugar levels and spice notes but we’ve already got greedy eyes on the tiny squares of heaven in our hands. After all it is a chocolate tasting tour…
A mercifully quick lesson on the fine art of tasting sees us looking, listening, (no really – the best chocolate has a satisfying ‘snap’ when it’s broken), smelling and feeling the chocolate before finally being allowed to pop it in our mouths. No chewing now, this is serious stuff.
It’s not far to the first tasting venue on the chocolate tour – next door, in fact. The East India Company isn’t the original 17th Century monolith that practically ran the seven seas but a reincarnation specialising in exotics the first company traded. We test a number of chocolates infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, red peppercorn and mukhwas, as well as one of the trendiest flavourings on the block just now, sea salt.
Charbonel et Walker have been making chocolate for Royalty since 1875. Their biggest-seller is the pink Marc de Champagne truffle, but a tray of exquisite delicacies invites speculation over just which one’s responsible for the Royal Warrant above the shop.
Prestat’s violet creams were once served to Sarah Bernhardt and they continue to sell traditional ‘Napoleon’ truffles by the dainty box-load from their tiny Princes Arcade store. The chocolate ‘thins’ are a particular hit.
Nuts are roasted in-house at new Greek chocolatier Carpo in Piccadilly specialising in roasted nuts and dried fruits that taste good enough to be sweets in their own right. Great slabs of fine chocolate nestle alongside dried strawberries, mango, kiwis and pineapple positively glowing in the light.
Paul A. Young, [www.paulayoung.co.uk] probably the hippest chocolatier in the country just now, will see your ‘Marmite Chocolate’ wager and raise you a Port-and-Stilton. Constantly pushing the boundaries of chocolate taste, Young never stops experimenting and the results are both awesome and exciting.
Chocolate Ecstasy tours could have been a Willy-Wonka cram-a-thon, stopping at every sweet shop in Mayfair, plunging tourists into a crazy, sugar-fuelled headspin. Instead, it’s taken the elegant route, challenging the tastebuds, piquing the interest of visitors and connoisseurs alike; introducing them to the oldest chocolatiers in the country – and one or two mavericks.
For more information about Chocolate Ecstasy Tours visit chocolateecstasytours.com
For more from Sandra visit www.sandralawrence.com