So you love chocolate? Doesn’t everyone? Whether your guilty pleasure is a Snickers bar, or you’re seriously contemplating a career as a chocolatier — at least in your fantasies — you’ve come to the right place.
Here we’ve compiled a choc-tastic guide in two parts, choc-full of festivals, shows, events, exhibitions, classes, tastings, walks — and even an intriguing shamanic ‘cacao ceremony’ and a chocolate museum. Later in the week we'll tell you about chocolate restaurants and cafés too; plus the best places to enjoy chocoholic afternoon tea. The only things we’ve omitted are chocolate shops because we’ve already told you about them, and Easter egg hunts as there are dozens of them.
Remember, chocolate is for life and not just for Easter.
Shows and Festivals
These are the most important annual and biannual dates for any chocoholic’s calendar.
What: Chocolate Week
Where: Various venues
When: 12-18 October
Cost: Varies, depending on the event
Founded by self-confessed chocoholic Kate Johns, this annual event is UK’s largest celebration of chocolate. During a week that sees chocolistas walking around in a glorious cocoa-induced stupor, there are special tastings at chocolate shops, demonstrations by chocolatiers, talks on thought-provoking topics, special chocolate menus in restaurants and launches of new or limited-edition sweet treats.
What: The Chocolate Show
Where: Olympia National
When: 16-18 October
Cost: £12.50 adult advance (£15 on door); £6 child aged 4-12 advance (£8 on door); family of 2 adults + 2 children £35 advance (£40 on door)
The climax of Chocolate Week, this massively popular show features dozens of top British and international chocolate producers, iconic brands, chefs and experts. There are chocolate cooking demonstrations, talks and tastings, pastry workshops and an incredibly popular fashion show in which chocolatiers collaborate with fashion designers to show off stunning outfits made entirely of chocolate. At last year’s finger-licking event, we tasted unusual flavours, bought rare chocolates and discovered upcoming trends.
What: The Chocolate Festival
Where: Business Design Centre
When: 4-6 December
Cost: £9 adult advance (£12 at door); £4 child advance (£5 door). Plus £5 optional tasting session
If you missed this weekend’s wonderfully buzzy Chocolate Festival (which ran alongside the Cheese and Wine Festival), worry not — it takes place twice a year and returns in December. Founded by food and wine lover Yael Rose, it started life at the Southbank but has grown bigger and moved indoors to the Business Design Centre. Expect popular brands and small producers, guided tastings, educational talks, a chance to sample raw and ‘free from’ chocolate — and this year we enjoyed chocolate beauty treatments, too.
Events and Exhibitions
This section is a mixture of one-off and ongoing events, exhibitions and shows — choccy things that you can do, see and visit.
What: The Chocolate Museum
When: Mostly Wednesday-Saturday
Did you know that there’s a chocolate museum in London? Owned by French chocolatier Isabelle Alaya who also owns the Melange Chocolate brand (we’ve included their tasting workshops below), it opened a couple of years ago in Brixton. There are exhibitions on the history of British and world chocolates, a display on the history of cocoa and slavery, artefacts and memorabilia dating back to the 18th century, and chocolates and chocolate desserts in its shop and café. Additionally, it runs chocolate making classes for adults and children, including an Easter chocolate workshop for children on 2 and 10 April.
What: Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
Where: Theatre Royal Drury Lane
When: Daily; performances confirmed until end of August.
Cost: £17.50-£70 depending on dates, times and seating
Sam Mendes's acclaimed musical based on Roald Dahl’s much-loved classic features the weird and wonderful world of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, a chocolate garden, the peculiar Oompa-Loompas and other surreal treats. The spectacular staging brings this dark and fantastic tale alive, so make sure you book your golden ticket.
What: Hotel Chocolat Tasting Experience at The London Eye
Where: The London Eye
When: Saturdays and Sundays 2.30pm; extra Easter tastings at 12.30pm and 4.30pm until 19 April
Elevate your interest in chocolate to, ahem, dizzying heights with a Hotel Chocolat tasting in a London Eye capsule. During two 30-minute rotations, an expert will guide you through a tasting of chocolates and truffles, along with a couple of glasses of prosecco — a unique experience that you’re sure to remember for years.
What: Death By Chocolate
Where: The London Dungeon
When: Until 12 April
Cost: £20.50 adult online (£25.95 on door); £16.50 child aged 4-15 online (£20.95 on door). Children under 4 years free.
Meet beautiful Victorian poisoner Miss Edmonds and visit her notorious sweet shop lined with enticing confectionery… laced with unusual ingredients. Forget violet creams and brace yourself for ‘Violent Screams’, a box of soft-centred chocolates guaranteed to leave an, erm, interesting aftertaste. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
What: Fraise Sauvage Happy Endings Dessert Nights
Where: Pond Dalston
When: 5 April
Cost: £40 (regular: desserts and aperitif); £55 (VIP: desserts, aperitif and wine pairing)
Chocolatier and pastry chef Terri Mercieca of Friase Sauvage is hosting ‘A Month of Sundaes’ on — appropriately enough — Sundays, throughout April. Billed as Happy Endings Dessert Nights, these five-course pudding extravaganzas are held at the stylish bar-restaurant Pond in Dalston, where Mercieca works as a pastry chef consultant. The first event, held during Easter Sunday, celebrates chocolate desserts. Using single origin, ethical Original Beans chocolate, she promises both silliness and sophistication with such delights as pumpkin and white chocolate beignets, along with a cocktail aperitif and optional four-course wine pairings. If you’re worried about your waistline, she promises: “we won’t kill you with too much sugar or heavy puddings; expect a well-thought out and perfectly balanced evening of deliciousness”.
What: Georgian Chocolate Kitchens and Chocolate Room
Where: Hampton Court Palace
Cost: Entrance tickets to Hampton Court Palace vary on such factors as time of the year; see website for more details
We’ve already told you about the country’s oldest surviving chocolate kitchen — and it’s well worth a visit if you’re interested in the fascinating history of British chocolate. Don’t leave without tasting the delicious hot chocolates.
What: The Chocolate Club
Where: Varies on the event
Led by self-styled ‘chief chocaholic’ Sela, this is a Meetup group for chocolate lovers, which organises visits to chocolate shops, festivals, shows and trips. Upcoming events include a visit to Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk and a chocolate trip to Brighton.
Classes, Workshops and Tastings
Whether you’re looking for a fun, easygoing chocolate tasting with friends after work, or are seriously interested in learning the history, ethics or process of chocolate making, you’ll find it in one of these classes.
What: William Curley’s chocolate classes
Where: William Curley Belgravia Boutique
When: Mostly Saturdays
Cost: Varies between £85-£115
Learn to make truffles, sea salted caramels or — if you’re feeling particularly adventurous — the somewhat tricky Venezuelan chocolate cadeaux at this revered, award-winning chocolatier’s Belgravia branch. You'll use Amedei — one of the world’s most sublime chocolate brands — for your creations and learn the entire process from bean to bar, including presentation and packaging.
What: Paul A Young’s chocolate making workshops and tasting events
Where: Paul A Young Camden Passage
When: 21 May (chocolate tasting evening), 30 May (intermediate chocolate making class), 18 June (chocolate tasting evening)
Cost: Varies between £47-£250
Many of the events at this hugely popular chocolatier are sold out — so be quick to grab the remaining tickets, or keep an eye on future dates. Learn all about the world of fine chocolates at the chocolate tasting evenings, chocolate tasting and making workshops, and sea salted caramel classes. The intermediate chocolate class with Paul A Young is a very rare opportunity to go beyond the basics with one of the country’s top chocolatiers, and learn everything from marble slab tempering to decorating chocolate.
What: Seventy Percent’s Level 1 Certificate in Chocolate Tasting
Where: Derbyshire House
When: 11 April, 23 May, 20 June
We’re proud owners of the prestigious Seventy Percent’s Level 1 chocolate tasting certificate, which we received after spending a day learning to truly taste chocolate and passing a (not-too-difficult) exam at the end. A must for those with a serious interest in the sweet brown stuff, this deeply insightful one-day course will teach you how to discern the differences between fine and mediocre chocolate via sensory learning and tasting games. You’ll discover the main varieties of cacao, their origins and regions, plus issues around sourcing, sustainability and ethics. Highly respected tutor Martin Christy, a leading figure in the chocolate industry, plans to introduce Levels 2 and 3 certificates, too. One of the best things about the course is that, in learning how to taste chocolate, you’ll also learn how to taste food.
What: Chocolate 101
Where: Artisan du Chocolat Westbourne Grove
When: 1 April, 17 June
We once spent a day at Artisan’s Kent factory making chocolate from bean to bar (which was subsequently sold in their shop), so we know how much importance the company places on ingredients. At the Notting Hill branch, you can indulge in a fun, casual tutored tasting of chocelicious food and drink in chic surroundings. On the menu are citrusy and fragrant juices made from the pulp of cacao pods, single origin bars, truffles, caramels, speciality chocolates in unusual flavours, chocolate ice cream and chocolate cocktails.
What: Hotel Chocolat’s Bean To Bar Experience and Chocolate Tasting Adventure
Where: Hotel Chocolat Covent Garden; Rabot 1745 restaurant
When: Bean To Bar Experience: 10.30am Saturdays; 3pm Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays; 7pm mostly Fridays, Sundays. Chocolate Tasting Adventure 10.30am Saturdays; 3pm Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays; 7pm Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays
Cost: £65 Bean To Bar Experience; £50 Chocolate Tasting Adventure
Hotel Chocolat offers two chocolate events at their Covent Garden shop and Rabot 1745 restaurant. During the ‘bean to bar experience’, you’ll watch a tempering demonstration and learn how to make a bar of chocolate from cocoa beans grown on their own cocoa plantation in Saint Lucia. The ‘chocolate tasting adventure’, on the other hand, is more about learning to appreciate good chocolate. You’ll discover how and when to taste and what to look out for, and learn to discern the nuances of flavour and texture influenced by the type of cocoa, terroir and conching time.
What: Bean To Bar Chocolate’s Fine Chocolate Tasting Club
Where: Upstairs at ArtHouse Crouch End
When: 29 March, 3 May, 7 June, 5 July
Cost: £10 + £1.25 booking fee
Helmed by the owner Lucy Keany who leads informal group discussions, this tasting club is likened to a book or a film club. At each meeting, the focus is either on a producer such as the French company Pralus, or origin like Ecuador beans, or themes including raw and low-processed chocolate. A relaxed way to learn about chocolate with other chocolate lovers and develop your own personal preferences.
What: MyChocolate’s London Chocolate Making Workshops
Where: 10c Branch Place, N1 5PH
When: 6, 12, 19 April (chocolate making workshop); 9 April (cocktail and chocolate making); 24, 30 April (luxury chocolate making) and many more dates for the rest of the year
Cost: Varies between £49-£80
The UK’s first chocolate events company — especially suitable for corporate events, team building, hen parties, birthdays and gifts — uses only organic chocolate. Choose from their reasonably-priced original or luxury chocolate making workshops, or cocktail and chocolate making classes. There’s a lot of emphasis on fun along with learning such things as ‘magical chocolate legends’ and how to create snazzy chocolate decorations.
What: The Cocoa Box Chocolate Classes
Where: Thistle City Barbican or Britannia Hampstead
When: 11 April (Barbican); 26 April, 2 May (Hampstead)
Cost: Varies; from £60
An enthusiastic supporter of the Katie Piper Foundation, the Cocoa Box is owned by Lisa Marley, who trained at the acclaimed Ashburton Cookery School in Devon. For her chocolate making classes and workshops, where you’ll learn the entire process of making milk chocolates with dark chocolate centres, you’ll need to buy vouchers from the website.
What: Bianca Marton Chocolates’ Chocolate Workshop
Where: Bianca Marton Chocolates
When: 13, 27 April
Life coach-turned-chocolatier, Hungary-born Bianca Marton makes dairy-free, chemical-free, organic chocolates in Brentford. Learn how to achieve the same velvety smooth texture and luxurious mouthfeel as the ones made with cream at her truffle-making class.
What: Chocolate Making classes at Cookery School at Little Portland Street
Where: Cookery School at Little Portland Street
When: 13 May, 24 June, 7 October
Learn to make your own Easter eggs at this popular, centrally-located cookery school’s full-day, hands-on chocolate making class. You’ll eat — erm, work with — the very best Amadei, Original Beans and Valrhona chocolates as a base for creating truffles, rochers and discs. You’ll also learn how to make three ganaches, along with such skills such as tempering, moulding, filling and piping chocolates.
What: Chocolate Delight’s Chocolate Workshops
Where: The Wesley Hotel
When: 16 May, 30 May, 20 June
Cost: £49 + £1.88 booking fee
Chocolate Delight owns a cute little chocolate hotel in Bournemouth (we had a ball when we visited a few years ago — especially with their chocolate cocktails and hands-on chocolate class). The company also specialises in chocolate fountains — one of which will run in the background throughout the duration of your course. So, then, if you can concentrate on the task at hand, learn how to mix, pipe, cut, shape, coat and package your very own Belgian truffles to impress friends and family.
What: Oosha’s Fundamentals of Raw Chocolate
Where: South London
When: 23 May
Raw chocolatier Amy Levin will teach you how to work with raw ingredients to make vegan filled chocolates, bonbons and pralines, plus develop skills such as tempering techniques, and achieving texture and colour. You’ll get more out of the class if you’re au fait with using a high-speed blender and dehydrator, and using sprouted nuts and seeds.
What: Chocolat at the Cake Boy
Where: Cake Boy
When: 4 June, 9 July, 20 August, 24 September, 22 October
Charismatic celebrity baker Eric Landlard’s glamorous Battersea cake boutique has introduced Chocolat — a cake baking class based on his book of the same name. Learn how to make West Indies chocolate tart, chocolate and raspberry tart on a praline base and chocolate cheesecake. The classes are small, and include lunch with fine wines.
What: Chocolate Masterclass at Claridge’s
Where: Claridge’s Hotel
When: 6 June
Amid the luxe art deco surroundings of this beautiful hotel, you’ll learn about the different varieties of chocolates and how to cook with them, with demonstrations of Claridge’s own chocolate classics. The cost includes lunch with a chocolate dessert.
Chocolate and Booze
About 10 years ago “wine and chocolates don’t go” was the mantra. Now, thankfully, the old rule book has been thrown out of the window: not only do we want to know which wine goes with which chocolate, but we also want to explore other alcoholic drinks in relation to the sweet brown stuff.
What: Easter chocolate and cocktail pairing
Where: The Botanist bar
When: 3-6 April
Cost: £10 per cocktail and chocolate pairing
Treat yourself to one of the four — okay, all four — cocktails paired with hand-made Artisan du Chocolat chocolates. This limited-edition, well-priced cocktail-and-choc combo is only available during the Easter weekend. Choose from the likes of ‘tropical highland’ with tobacco chocolate coated in dark chocolate ganache, or ‘thriller in vanilla’ with popping candy milk chocolate disc.
What: Melange Chocolates’ Chocolate and Wine Tasting Workshops
Where: Melange Chocolates
When: 17 April, 15 May
This Peckham chocolate shop and café — owned by the people behind the Chocolate Museum in Brixton (see above) — sells whimsically-flavoured chocolates and has an enthusiastic local following. You’ll discover how chocolates and wines contrast and complement each other; and tastings can also be organised with beer, rum and cognac. Rather grandly declaring that “tasting is an art, a lifestyle and a ceremony”, the shop also runs chocolate making workshops.
What: Not Guilty! An Ethical Wine and Chocolate Tasting Evening With Sarah Jane Evans
Where: Judges’ Dining room at The Old Bailey
When: 21 April
Cost: £30 (+ £2.50 booking fee if booked via Eventbrite)
Curious about what the Judges’ Dining Room at The Old Bailey looks like — and fancy tasting ethical, sustainable Fairtrade chocolates and wines from around the world while trying to find out? Then try this amazing event led by the highly respected Sarah Jane Evans, Master of Wine, Chair of the Institute of Masters of Wine, and founder member of the Academy of Chocolate (some people have the most delicious jobs). As if that’s not appealing enough, all donations from the reasonably-priced event will be given to the Bow Food Bank — so yes, you can say that you’re eating chocolate and drinking wine purely for charitable purposes.
What is a ‘cacao ceremony’? Well, cacao has been used as a sacred plant-based medicine for centuries in Central and South America, where it was once attributed with spiritual properties and used as a means of conversing with gods. Shamanic cacao ceremonies are said to help deepen self-awareness, and although they’re something of a fringe activity their popularity is gradually on the rise. There are now many of these ceremonies in London — which also enable you to enjoy chocolate in its purest form — but this is the only one we could find with confirmed dates.
What: Cacao Ceremony with Rebekah Shaman
Where: Xenia London Waterloo
When: 11 April, 9 May
Cost: £33 + £1.95 booking fee
This cacao ceremony is essentially a self-help activity that involves combining the ceremonious drinking of specially prepared cacao with guided meditation in order to heal personal issues. It’s led by Rebekah Shaman, who trained with a Peruvian shaman in the Amazon rainforest.
- Keep yourself up to date with chocolate reviews, recipes, news, features and videos with Dom Ramsey’s respected, long-established Chocablog.
- Read Lee McCoyand’s Chocolate Reviews, in which he gives detailed, unbiased opinions about chocolate products from small producers as well as international brands.
- Sign up to the new-ish, highly acclaimed monthly chocolate subscription service, Cocoa Runners.
- Hire chocolate fountains for parties and special occasions from Chocolato or Hot Chocolates.
- Visit Joanna Tinker: Collections an exhibition of intricate artworks created from chocolate wrappers that’s on until 24 April.
Do you know of any other exciting chocolate events in London? Tell us in the comments below.