The Brits are once again coming to Boston. This time, however, the city’s famed Brahmins as well as the hoi polloi will welcome British cocoa grower and chocolatier Hotel Chocolat with mouths and pocketbooks open.
The 1,200 sq.-ft. Hotel Chocolat retail store, which opened its doors at the end of the month, is located on one of the city’s toniest boulevards, Newbury Street. Decorated in “a black and white textural color palette of parquet floors and floating shelves,” the store dedicates two-thirds of its floor space to the company’s broad range of cocoa and chocolate products.
Hotel Chocolat’s product lineup includes a mix of truffles, filled and solid chocolates, large chocolate slabs, single-estate and organic chocolates as well as a “cuisine” range of organic cocoa powders, enrobed fruits and chocolate tapenades.
One-third of the shop will house a chocolate tasting room - the first in the Boston area.
“It will be similar to a winery’s tasting room,” explains Nicki Doggart, ceo of Hotel Chocolate Inc. - America. The tasting, which will be by appointment only and conducted by a chocolate “concierge,” will last between 60 and 90 minutes, and focus on discovering the nuances of cocoa origins, chocolate pairings and “extreme adventures” in tasting such as a 100% cocoa content bar (served with olives and strong cheeses), she explains.
Doggart points out that the debut of the Hotel Chocolate retail shop in Boston follows two years of testing the U.S. market, primarily through online sales.
“We saw that there was room for another premium chocolate company, but wanted to learn more about the market before we set up operations,” she explains. Known for its sensual and socially conscious marketing in the United Kingdom, Hotel Chocolat did adjust its product lineup slightly to accommodate U.S. tastes.
“There’s definitely a palette difference, with a preference for milk chocolates in the UK,” Doggart says. “There’s an appetite for dark over milk chocolate here.”
And while Hotel Chocolat will offer more than enough dark chocolate to satisfy cravings, Doggart believes U.S. consumers will be anxious to try the company’s range of premium milk chocolates, which feature 40%, 52% and 62% cocoa contents.
Doggart believes American consumers also will identify with the company’s No Nasties and Less Sugar More Cocoa commitments, which focuses on producing luxury chocolates using only premium quality, all natural ingredients.
Founded by Angus Thirwell and Peter Harris in 1993 as a bean-to-bar chocolate business, the company has remained steadfast in its commitment to working directly with cocoa farmers in sourcing cocoa beans and paying them premium prices to encourage quality.
It recently purchased the Rabot Estate in St. Lucia and is building a production facility there, which should be operational in early 2010. The company also looks to open a second retail location in Boston later this year.