There is something immensely satisfying about excellence, whether it be observing it in sport; in a perfectly executed Federer backhand or devouring it on a plate of jollof rice; light, fluffy and burnished orange with peppers and spice. So, when the Guardian recently did a spread on Knoops, I felt a tingle of joy.
The perfect hot chocolate does exist, it’s simply a moving target. Sometimes it’s light and energising, a delicious breakfast tipple, try Monbana Traditional Hot Chocolate (32%). Other times it’s an astonishing blend, full of spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, try Isabelle’s Caribbean inspired cocoa tea at Melange Chocolate Shop. Or it can simply be almost dessert like in providing comfort, try Said London.
I’d hazard a guess that every chocolatier has at one point been slightly obsessed with finding the perfect hot chocolate. I know I have and Knoops brings that joyful, if occasionally expensive, search to the masses. Or at least to the middle classes since its branches are dotted across some of London’s most expensive post codes; Kings Road, Kensington, you get the idea.
I visited the Clapham Junction branch. The staff were excellent; friendly, quick and enthusiastic. The décor was somewhat anonymous, designed I suspect to fit into tourist heavy, expensive high streets across the globe. The range of single origin hot chocolate was impressive. The option of adding selected spices, for free, was inspired. I tried the 73% Single Origin (Philippines) with notes of citrus, honey and caramel and requested an accompaniment of Szechuan pepper. It was distinctive if somewhat unmemorable.
In some ways, more importantly, I can only salute the ambition and its execution. Several hundred years ago, instead of Coffee Houses, central London was peppered with Cocoa Houses such White’s on St James. Now with Knoops and Said, joining Hotel Chocolat, we seem to be witnessing a welcome revival.