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March 26, 2008

Hotel Chocolat's Liquid Chocolat- It's Like a Fine Wine

There are very few people in the world who can say no to chocolate. They may have their preferences such as dark over milk, but for century’s chocolate has been a luxury, a healthy addiction and a downright pleasure. When the wonderfully nice people at Hotel Chocolat sent me some full size samples (six total) of their Liquid Chocolat, I swooned. Then, I said, “Why yes! Of course!”

Hotel Chocolat says that they are, “a state of mind, a place, a feeling…” and I have to agree. Created over 15 years ago by two UK gentlemen, Angus Thirwell and Peter Harris, who only wanted a better tasting and quality chocolate. Hotel Chocolat has quite the loyal following. Why wouldn’t they? The hot chocolate comes in six different flavors and it is some serious stuff. What started as a catalog business is now a worldwide company with its own cocoa fields and plantation (Rabot Estates) and two chocolatiers on its staff. Using only the best ingredients, read no artificial preservatives or colors, Hotel Chocolat believes that less sugar=more cocoa. It's truly a pure and sensual chocolate.

I tried out my six samples of Liquid Chocolat on my family, friends and myself. It is safe to say that with all those people every different type of Liquid Chocolat (L.C.) was a favorite for someone. Each bottle is nine ½-ounces ($12). The chocolate is derived from solid chocolate bars shavings. The shavings are then packed into the bottles with essential oils. Are you swooning yet? L.C. is not for the faint of chocolate heart either. It takes time to get it right. I tested it out in both the microwave and on the stovetop. I found that the stove works best to truly melt the chocolate and blend it with the milk. It creates the perfect L.C. experience. Just as Hotel Chocolat spends time creating their products it takes time to use them. It is worth it too!

While some preferred the Kiss mix with its comforting caramel sweetness (it is like a warm blanket on a cold day), others preferred the spicy slow burn of the Aztec Chili. This is not your typical hot cocoa by any means. The Aztec Chili and the Macho are unsweetened. You can add a spoonful of sugar if you want. Those of us who loved that darker more European taste found these two with their bold and deep in flavors not needing any sweetness. They seem more authentic that way. The Milky and Classic proved to be very popular with the traditionalists, as they both possess a smooth creaminess with just a bit of sweet. Made from 72% pure cocoa in either dark or milk chocolate, both of these pack a real chocolate taste to them. The surprise of the bunch was the deliciously creamy yet lightly flavored Valencia Orange Liquid Chocolat. The orange is subtle but it is there and I thought it made an excellent choice if you wanted something sweet after dinner but maybe not a full dessert. I love orange and chocolate together and found this to be a favorite of mine.

As I delved further into the story of Hotel Chocolat, I found even more to love. Beyond the other wonderful and possibly sinful chocolate items they create, there is an incredible set of ethics. In fact, it is called the Engaged Ethics program. It is based on the ‘do the right thing’ approach. Hotel Chocolat does not just own their own farm and plantation the company gets down into the dirt with the cocoa farmers and the industry itself. They strive to make it more viable and revitalize it, making it a sustainable way of life. Hotel Chocolat always pays the premium price and shares ‘best practices’ which makes them a remarkable company.

Infused with fun, imagination and I must say, a bit cheeky Hotel Chocolat creates a superior line of boxed chocolates, cooking chocolates and slabs in a variety of ways. It makes a wonderful gift, is not too pricey and is of an amazing quality that just cannot be beat. Combine that with the Engaged Ethics program and Hotel Chocolat is one company you can feel good purchasing more and more and more chocolate from in the future.