Cara meets Jens Knoop, the founder of Knoops, to sample and learn what it takes for a cacao pod to become Knoops hot or cold chocolate.
The first Knoops cafe was born in Rye after Jens realised that a high quality chocolate was quite hard to find in the UK as the market was mostly centered around coffee drinking.
He experimented with various hot chocolate making techniques, recipes and productions before creating the menu for Knoops. To this day he is still involved in testing and developing new recipes.
Knoops is different from the rest though, the business is centered on personalised chocolate drinks. The menu gives customers a choice from white chocolate, all the way to 100 percent dark. It can be served hot or cold or as a milkshake with a variety of milks.
Knoops has a diverse plant-based offering. All of the chocolates that are 54 percent and over are suitable for vegans and there are also six non-dairy milks from Minor Figures and Rude Health to choose from, including hazelnut, oat, soya, coconut and almond.
Jens personally recommends full fat or oat milk. The chocolates can also be spiced with a variety of mixes, roots or fruit. We were the first ones to try the new autumn addition – pumpkin spice with toffee apple marshmallows on the side.
Pumpkin spice is launching on the 30th of September. It can be mixed with any of the hot chocolate percentages. And the cup of your preferred chocolate spiced pumpkin will be free but only on the day of the launch – the 30th September.
The recipe, which is free from artificial flavours, preservatives or sugary syrups combines ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice for a warming drink symbolic of the turning of the leaves and return to chillier mornings and evenings.
The drinks are available in Knoops’ branches in London (Chelsea, Kensington, Covent Garden and Richmond), Oxford, Rye and Brighton.
Knoops uses only fully traceable blends, so the brand knows which cooperatives contributed to each cup – alongside a number of single origins from a range of cocoa-growing regions, from Peru and Colombia, to Tanzania and Madagascar.
We sampled 100 percent dark from Solomon Islands, which was not for everyone but I liked it. It was pleasantly mellow, I find high percentage chocolate can be a little sour sometimes.
Then there was 70 percent that comes from Congo, the cacao farmers are paid fair price, which helps protect a local gorilla habitat. We also sampled the top secret 66 percent with citrus notes from Mexico.
That was all we were told by Jens however, he promised that it will be available soon in Knoops stores.
Another new flavour to look out for is dark milk, which is 49 percent. It was an unusual combination of rich dark cocoa with a smooth creamy finish.
Like with wine soil, climate and type of cacao species affect the flavour of the final product. For example cacao from Madagascar often has red fruit finish. While Peruvian cacao is smooth and mellow.
Some also believe that cross pollination plays a difference. Cacao trees are often grown together with banana or coconut palms, which influences the final product too.
If you find chocolate too overpowering and prefer tea, Knoops has the perfect alternative option for that – Knoops Cacao Tea (8oz, £2.45). The tea is made from roasted cacao husk, the natural by-product of the chocolate-making process, which is often thrown away.
The Tea was naturally slightly sweet with a very delicate toffee and caramel flavour. Cacao husk is considered to be a natural superfood. It is caffeine and gluten-free, low in calories and rich in antioxidants.
I’m a green tea drinker myself but I do enjoy an occasional 80 percent or above high quality hot chocolate on a cold day and when someone else is making it for me.
I just don’t like the fuss of making it at home, probably mostly due to not having milk at home. So cacao tea is perfect. It is light, with chocolate notes and expects no milk, just boiling hot water like a normal black tea.
If you weren’t convinced by the hot chocolate drinking culture until now, maybe a free hot chocolate will change that, full details here.