Our Story

Our Story...

The very first Hotel Chocolat shop opened its doors to guests in North London in 2004. It was the start of a revolution in British chocolate by entrepreneurs Angus Thirlwell and Peter Harris.

Today, we have more than 80 shops in the UK, as well as cafés and restaurants, and we have opened our first three boutiques in Copenhagen. It’s been a dynamic period of change and growth, but everything we do is still guided by the three basic values that we started with, and always will be.

What we believe in

• Originality: Being fresh, creative and innovative, and always one surprising step ahead.
• Authenticity: Keeping it real. We grow some of the cocoa we use, create our own chocolate recipes and even make chocolate fresh from the bean for some of our ranges.
• Ethics: Reconnecting our love of chocolate with its roots. Cocoa farmers worldwide deserve respect and a fair deal. And that’s what we offer, from Saint Lucia to Ghana, through our Engaged Ethics programme.

What makes our chocolate different

Right from the start, we’ve never played by the rules of what people said a chocolate company should be. For one thing, we’re one of the world’s few chocolate makers to actually grow cocoa, on our beautiful Rabot Estate plantation in Saint Lucia. Connecting cocoa-growing with luxury chocolate-making and retailing makes us unique in the UK.

When we first started making our Easter Eggs more than a decade ago, we were advised by experts to make them as thin as possible and put the chocolates on the outside. We did the opposite – making ridiculously thick shells with all of our chocolates hidden inside for extra excitement. Everybody said a slab of chocolate should be regular and divided into bite-sized pieces – instead we made our now iconic Giant Slabs.
When you pour molten chocolate onto the cool marble of a chocolatier’s table it naturally sets into a fabulously curvy, fluid shape. This was the inspiration behind the design of our half-kilo Giant Slabs. Much admired, often copied, never equalled.

Making our chocolates, our mantra has always been ‘More Cocoa, Less Sugar’. Our house-grade milk chocolates are 40% and 50% cocoa, and even our white chocolate is 36% cocoa, well above the average. A decadently high cocoa content means that it takes just a smaller portion to satisfy a chocolate craving. The smooth, creamy flavour lingers on while the cocoa makes you feel focused, energised and on top of the world. Centuries ago, Mayans revered the potent cocoa bean so much that it was worshipped as a gift from the gods. Somewhere along the way, the power of cocoa has been lost in translation and milk chocolate has become sweeter and sweeter. In fact most milk chocolate today contains twice as much sugar as cocoa. The fact that sugar is a tenth of the cost of cocoa could explain why this is.

And it’s not only chocolate that our cocoa goes into – we’ve also created drinks and savoury cocoa products, as well as our own beauty range inspired by the therapies created at our plantation spa in Saint Lucia.

Beyond our boutiques

It’s a question we’re asked a lot, and yes, Hotel Chocolat does have a hotel: the beautiful Boucan
on our Rabot Estate in the Caribbean, where we’ve created a unique Anglo-Saint Lucian dining experience with a twist of cocoa. We brought that experience home to Britain too, launching the Rabot 1745
restaurant in London in and Roast + Conch in 2013.

Our cafés are yet another innovation: bringing together cocoa-growing, chocolate-making, drinks and food, we’re reviving the ritual of drinking chocolate alongside a carefully curated menu of tea, coffee and snacks (we recommend the Salted Caramel Brownie).

Then there are our Schools of Chocolate. Here we take the appreciation of chocolate to a new level with our Tasting Adventures, and teach you to create your own with our Bean to Bar experiences.

You could say we’ve been busy. And we still are, but whatever we’re doing, we know that it’s only possible because of you, our customers. We’ve loved bringing you new ways to experience cocoa since we started out over 20 years ago – here’s to the next 20.

A Bite-Sized History of Hotel Chocolat

1993
We started selling chocolates online, becoming one of the UK’s earliest ever ‘e-tailers’, predating the likes of Amazon and eBay.

1998
The Chocolate Tasting Club is created – a vast community of chocolate tasters who receive unique selections each month.

2004
The first-ever Hotel Chocolat shop opens!

2006
To realise their dream of becoming cocoa farmers, Angus and Peter buy a beautiful 250-year-old cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia – Rabot Estate.

2010
Hotel Chocolat’s first cafe opens in London’s Borough Market, serving a range of innovative cocoa-centred food and drinks. It quickly becomes popular.
We launch the world’s first ‘Chocolate Bond’ to fund our development. We raise £4.2 million from enthusiastic supporters, who receive their interest paid in our chocolate!

2011
Boucan, our luxury hotel, restaurant and spa, opens on our cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia, to huge acclaim. People start flying in from New York for the food.

2012
Hotel Chocolat is voted the UK’s ‘most advocated’ British brand. We love you too!

2013
London and Leeds are chosen as homes for our two new restaurants, Rabot 1745 and Roast+Conch, bringing the cocoa plantation experience to Britain.
Our relaunched website opens a stunning new window into our online world.
Our resident chocolatiers start making chocolates fresh in our cocoa bar-cafés.

2014
The School of Chocolate at Cocoa Vaults opens in Covent Garden, offering a world of chocolate adventures and experiences.
Copenhagen sees the launch of two brand new stores, powered by a second Chocolate Bond launch and you, our loyal customers!

2015
Our first cookbook, A New Way of Cooking with Chocolate, is published, giving a unique insight into the award-winning dishes from our restaurants and allowing you to make them at home.
The School of Chocolate opens its doors at our Copenhagen City store, offering new chocolate adventures and experiences to our customers in Denmark.
Our first West End store opens on Regent Street.
Our first ‘refuel station’ café opens in Cambridge. It sets a trend that we later roll out across all of our cafés: there’s a Chocolate Whip Bar, Fuel-Up Station with brownies and snacks, Selector Library and our flavour-matched selection of hot drinks.

We are honoured with several new Awards, including three Golds from The Academy of Chocolate.

And the story continues…