London is waking up and smelling the roasted cocoa

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“London is waking up and smelling the roasted cocoa”

London is buzzing. But, this time, rather than wired from cup after cup of strong coffee, it’s chocolate that is helping us keep up with the city’s pace. Not bars of it, but mugs-full.

This week, specialist chocolate shop Hotel Chocolat officially launches London Roast & Conch (on the same street as one of London’s top coffee companies, Monmouth) and the new café’s top offering is a cup of pure hot chocolate, roasted and ground (just like coffee) on site, straight from the beans.

“People like coffee because it’s stimulating,” says Hotel Chocolat CEO and co-founder Angus Thirlwell, “but whereas coffee gives you a spike, which can be quickly followed by a low, chocolate is energising at a steadier pace, for longer.”

It’s a direct challenge to our coffee addictions.

Thirlwell’s new drinks menu, called Coffee vs Cocoa, is designed to encourage Londoners to re-think their flat whites and espressos and have them made with cocoa instead.

“Typically to make chocolate you would conch [grind] the chocolate for longer and it becomes mellow, but our roasted cocoa is not the calming, soothing, light drink you’re used to,” says Thirlwell. “It retains the colourful leather, tobacco, spices and red wine flavours of the bean.”

Adrian Smith, founder of the Mortimer Chocolate Company, is on the same wavelength. His idea was to package pure roasted chocolate powder in coffee bags and, like coffee, sell it according to the region of its origin and flavour characteristics.
“It’s more sophisticated,” says Smith. “It’s like making tea or coffee and you decide how much milk or sugar you want with it.”

Sales are up, and the Mortimer West African Pure Dark Chocolate Powder was recently voted Britain’s Best Drinking Chocolate.

That hot chocolate is currently hot, signals something of a renaissance – since chocolate was originally drunk rather than scoffed, and the first ever chocolate shop (frequented by Samuel Pepys when he needed to cure a hangover) opened in London on Bishopsgate in 1657.

The resurgence is a trend reflected in the agricultural commodity market, with New York and London cocoa performing second and third best of all agri-commodities since the start of this year.
Current dry and windy weather across the Ivory Coast (the world’s largest cocoa-producing country) is bad news for cocoa growers, so a potential shortage this year could continue to drive prices up.

And, if you fancy gambling on an investment, the long term outlook is that a growing demand from emerging markets such as China and crop shortages influenced by rising global temperatures could mean that cocoa will keep getting hotter.

No doubt, that’s why a London hedge fund bought up 240,100 tonnes of the stuff in 2010 – about seven per cent of the global annual production.

It could be time to put your money where your mug is.

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