The bittersweet history of chocolate and a tasting at Hotel Chocolat

Did you know … ? To be considered milk chocolate in the EU, it needs to be at least 25% cocoa solids. Chocolate is only considered dark at 70%.

Recently, I got a chocolate lesson, plus a whole lot of sweet – and fizzy – stuff at Hotel Chocolat in Victoria, London.

hotel chocolat tasting prosecco

hotel chocolat champagne truffles

In between samples, we learned about the recent history of chocolate, and how tastes have changed and changed back again.

Historically, chocolate was very different – and by that I mean more bitter – than your average chocolate bar is today. Speaking of, chocolate bars came to be in 1847, in Bristol, England. Did you know chocolate bars were English? Neither did I. (So is the internet – no matter what Al Gore says.)

Until the 20th century, chocolate was considered a luxury, and it was generally heavy on the cocoa solids. It all really changed because of World War I.

Food supplies were a concern, and importing was much more difficult, so chocolate had to change. Companies like Rowntree’s and Cadbury got creative and stretched their cocoa further. Maybe you’ve heard of some inventions from that era, like Snickers, Kit Kats and Rolos.

But little by little, the chocolate experimentation has gone the other way, to more chocolatey dark chocolate, with a higher cocoa percentage.

Which leads right into Hotel Chocolat, where I snapped a piece of chocolate next to my ear, and was offered more samples than I could eat. And they didn’t even ask me to write this post – seriously.

hotel chocolat

Hotel Chocolat have been making chocolate for 28 years from their factory in Cambridge (how great must that neighborhood smell…) and they are in charge of the whole process, from bean to bar.

hotel chocolat

Their dark chocolate is heady. Rich and lightly bitter, the taste lingers. Everything about it feels luxurious. Break it in to pieces and listen to the snap. It’s completely different from the average chocolate bar. It fights back against you, just a little, before melting down into chocolately bliss.

hotel chocolat dark chocolate

Milk chocolate? Still rich. Sweet and creamy. Still snaps. So luxurious that you don’t even need a whole bar before you’re satisfied. Does that make it lighter calorie? Let’s say yes.

hotel chocolat milk chocolate

White chocolate, meanwhile – still not my favorite, but Hotel Chocolat’s contains 36% cocoa, which is the same amount as in a bar of Dairy Milk. Yep.

pistachio truffles, hotel chocolate

hotel chocolat

Oh and before I forget. Did you know you could get a cocoa pesto? And a cocoa gin? When you’re out picking up bars of chili chocolate and Mississippi mud pie, don’t forget the cocoa bitters for your cocktails.

cocoa mustard

cocoa drops

Soon enough, I’ll be turning some 100% chocolate into a Mexican mole sauce. Wish me luck. And if I can get it right – you might just see it turn up here.

100 percent dark chocolate, hotel chocolat

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