National Chocolate Week: Cocoa time is back in Kingston

Traditionally run from October 12 to 18, Chocolate Week is a week of themed events in honour of the ingredient that brings us together. 

According to Mintel research, the British are the seventh highest chocolate consumers worldwide, averaging 8.4kg of chocolate per person per year. On average, a British consumer annually shells out £57 on cocoa treats, only surpassed by the Swiss, The Telegraph reported. 

While the majority of themed events and tasting sessions had to be scrapped in Kingston due to Coronavirus, there were still opportunities for residents to treat themselves.

Gourmet Chocolate shops

The choicest spots for chocolate connoisseurs in are just a stone’s throw from the Market Place: Montezuma’s and Hotel Chocolat.  Montezuma’s azure-coloured store on Fife Road offers a selection of artisan organic chocolate. 

Recently launched vegan options with dairy alternatives along with limited editions of mini Chocolate Libraries and Advent Calendars are on sale in the run-up to Christmas.  Especially scrumptious is the range of truffles which lures chocoholics way beyond window-shopping.  Customers can adjourn to the chocolate parlour with all Covid-19 precautions in place. 

On Tuesday of Chocolate Week, Montezuma’s shop was teeming with chocolate lovers in pursuit of their dose of “black gold”. Betty Mitchell, 37, a loyal customer from Surbiton, said: “Since I wandered into this place, I can’t wean myself off it. My only regret is that I can’ t settle for lesser quality. I simply can’t look at back at Yorkies anymore.”
Montezuma’s Chocolate Shop in Kingston.

  Hotel Chocolat – which launched a give-away on Twitter starting on Monday with  #NationalChocolateWeek hashtag – is another place to go for scrumptious Christmas  gifts. It offers bespoke chocolate bars with signatures tailored for any occasion, from “apology” to “anniversary”.  

Rita Rodgers, 52, from Sutton, said: “That is one of those essentials I would rush to stock-pile…. It perfectly beats the autumn blues, and somehow brings Christmas closer.”

Local pride

Spending the week in Kingston came with an added benefit as chocolate flavoured ice-cream is a local specialty thanks to Kingstonian Ice-Cream parlour. This family-run gelato shop has won The National Ice Cream Competition three times for offering the best natural chocolate ice-cream scoops in the UK.

One of the most honourable (and affordable) mentions alongside the standalone shops is Tony’s Chocolate, which boasts of fully- traced cacao beans from West Africa. The company with a sharp focus on eradicating slavery was set up by a Dutch journalist who rooted for ethical and guilt-free indulgence. There is an ethical statement fused into each bar: it is divvied up into uneven segments to denote world inequality and to promote mindful consumption.

Also, timed to Chocolate Week events, the brand is doing the rounds on social media with an anti-slavery petition. Originating in the UK market from the Fenwick food halls, it now graces the shelves of big-chain supermarkets: Waitrose and Sainsbury’s.

While chocolate is generally frowned upon by medical professionals as junk “comfort” food and a staple of “impulse buying”, palatable findings by Kingston University research revealed that dark chocolate can ramp up energy levels and boost dopamine level if enjoyed in moderation. Rich in polyphenols, it packs twice the number of antioxidants found in green tea, according to the Journal of Psychophysiology

According to National Geographic, Chocolate Week festivities coincide with Columbus Day to signal the explorer’s core contribution to the dissemination of cocoa beans in Europe. His ambassador is credited with first shipping cocoa beans to Spain from the New World where it was converted into a luxury commodity. Initially served solely in bitter, liquid, format in Chocolate Houses throughout England, two centuries later cocoa powder was solidified, sugared and moulded into the conventional bars we relish today.

Chocolate Week unwrapped in South West London last week, with Kingston residents lapping it up amidst the gloom of Covid restrictions.

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