Bring plenty of comfort and joy this season with decadent chocolates and artisan coffee. From ethical to sumptuous, classic to quirky, Rowena Marella-Daw hand-picks the best of the best.
Multi award-winning chocolatier, Rococo encapsulates Britishness with its elegant packaging, trend-setting treats and quirky flavours. Since opening its doors on King’s Road in 1983, the brand has mushroomed into seven shops, where small batches of handmade truffles entice chocoholics. Exquisite taste goes hand-in-hand with elegantly designed truffle boxes and chocolate bar wrappers.
Rococo’s Christmas bumper hampers are definitely hard to resist, and why would you want to? Take your pick from The Rococo Collection hamper, The Extravagance of Chocolate hamper, or The Indulgence of Chocolate hamper, which comes with three artisan bars, two boxes of chocolate wafer thins, four nibble bags and one selection box. A tough choice, but choc full of tempting options.
Chocoholics who prefer dark chocolate with a twist can indulge in this season’s artisan bars. A delicate hint of bergamot makes the earl grey tea organic dark irresistible, while mildly spiced dark chocolate mulled wine pairs well with a glass of good Port. Add the gold, frankincense and myrrh, cardamom organic dark, spice island organic dark and orange marmalade dark into the mix and you’ll embark on a chocolate journey like no other.
More dark chocolate indulgence awaits in highly-recommended dark cherry liqueurs and tauntingly delicate organic orange dark chocolate wafer thins. The caramelised hazelnuts and macadamia nuts are smothered in melt-in-your-mouth rich cocoa powder, it’s so easy to gobble them all up in one sitting. Also irresistible are the low-sugar dusted scorched almonds, made with caramelised toasted Provençal almonds infused with herbs and vanilla. Great to feast on through those Christmas movies.
‘Montezuma’s’ is a great name for the artisan chocolate brand that began to seed while co-owners Helen and Simon Pattinson travelled around Latin America. 20 years on, the enterprise has grown from strength to strength to produce ethically-sourced chocolate underpinned by Trading Fairly principles.
Montezuma’s has a treasure of wildly enticing treats, with the Super Stars wicker gift basket certain to put a big smile on everyone’s face. Loaded with milk, white and dark truffles alongside bars with quirky names, such as lordy lord, cheeky, hot pickle, smooth operator and splotch, just to name a few. This fun basket also comes with Montezuma’s own cookbook.
Dare to go to the dark side of chocolate – a guilt-free zone where the authentic flavours of quality cocoa are expressed in delicate bars devoid of sugar overload. Highly recommended in the flavoured dark chocolate bar range are cheeky (lemon and coconut), sea dog (lime and sea salt), happy hippy (orange and geranium), moondance (with almond praline), and a whopper Queen of Sheba bar (pistachio and cherry). Apart from using quality and organic ingredients, there’s no palm or vegetable oil in any of the products.
Montezuma’s supports Children on the Edge (COTE), a UK-based charity that helps marginalised children around the world. Donations from customers help towards funding the charity.
Lovers of marzipan chocolate better grab Niederegger’s collection of treats before they run out. The German brand is very popular because unlike other versions, they have perfected that fine balance of sweet almonds and bitter chocolate, unsurprising as they’ve been making them since 1806. Natural sweetness comes from 58 percent pure Mediterranean almonds, so there’s none of the cloying sweetness, just a refined lightness that melts in the mouth.
The marzipan premium maxi hamper is crammed with goodies, including the marzipanerie Christmas edition and marzipan assorted mini loaves, which deviates from tradition with its orange, pistachio, pineapple and espresso flavours. Of course, there’s a classic dark chocolate covered marzipan loaf, cherry marzipan pralines, ‘we love chocolate’ assorted double chocolate and coffee crisp, ‘we love chocolate’ assorted pink berry and crispy waffle and a sharing marzipan black forest kirsch torte. A treasure trove of treats.
The Norfolk Coffee Company
El Salvador, Colombia, Nicaragua, Brazil, Ethiopia and Kenya may have very distinct cultures, but they all have something in common. The coffee beans grown in their soil are sent all the way to the UK, and can be savoured in the comfort of our homes by way of The Norfolk Coffee Company, the speciality roasters based in Holt, close to the sprawling pristine beaches of North Norfolk.
Borne out of founder Steve Perrett’s passion for honestly good coffee, he pledged to ethically source coffee only from farmers who care about the quality of their beans. Their provenance, down to the microlot where they’re grown, is just as vital as knowing the growers are paid a fair price for their labours, and their workers treated fairly. Over at the Norfolk Coffee roastery, they use green beans from the latest harvest, achieving the delicate balance that allows the natural sweetness and flavours to stand out.
And what better accompaniment to exquisite chocolates than quality coffee? The tantalising aroma of fresh ground beans awakens the senses even before you take that first sip. With that heady thought in mind, here are my picks from The Norfolk Coffee company’s exotic range, ideal for Christmas, New Year and beyond.
The 1549 name stems from the Norwich rebellion of that year that pitched peasant farmers against the wealthy landowners and gentry. This award-winning house espresso with a 50-50 blend of single estate beans from Miravalle, Colombia and Finca Las Mercedes, El Salvador brings an immediate hit of toffee, which leads to the fruitier realms of green apple and orange. All combined, this is a hearty and flavoursome coffee best drunk either black or with just a little milk, but also works well as a cappuccino.
The word gigglemug is defined as a person who’s always smiling. Indeed, this coffee will make you smile as soon as you sniff the aroma of chocolate. A beautiful blend of 50 percent Cristalina from Brazil and 50 percent from Las Mercedes, El Salvador, it’s smooth on the palate and comes with velvety notes of caramel and chocolate.
Produced by the Mugaga Farmer Cooperative in Kiamabara in south-west Kenya’s Nyeri region, the rich, volcanic soil and high altitude provide ideal conditions for the slow maturation process that produces extra hard beans. The result is a satisfying coffee that earned two stars at the 2020 Great Taste Awards. The aroma of dark chocolate combines with caramel notes, leaving a well-rounded taste and delicate sweetness that lingers long after the last sip.
El Bosque Ortez
This coffee comes from a single origin Catuai varietal, grown in the eponymous farm’s special microlot by brothers Julio and Octavio Peralta. They only use a natural process of drying coffee cherries on raised beds in the sun for 28 days. A little different from your usual strong Arabica brew, fruity and nutty notes dominate, and there’s also a crafty hint of negroni to keep you guessing.
Edging towards the intense side, here’s a singe estate Grade 1 coffee with extra character and a rich, smoky aroma. Grown in Ayehu farm in the northern Ethiopian region of Amhara, it veers away from the more traditional Ethiopian coffees to please the drinker with a nice touch of pineapple, sidling up to a dash of chocolate.