Set up three years ago as part of a franchise, recently rebranded the Chorlton-based family-run chocolate shop and cafe, as the Cocoa Tree. Packed with strong independent businesses, Chorlton, with its community feel, is “the perfect location” for the store, owner Lyndsey explained to TNT.
Cool and air conditioned, the cafe is dotted with little wooden tables and comfy armchairs. Floral wallpaper covers one wall, adding to the dainty atmosphere of the place. The cafe menu comprises simple comfort foods such as scones, crumpets and brownies – all costing around the very reasonable £2.50 mark – a range of teas, coffees and hot chocolates.
The shop has a set variety of chocolates – including such favourites as the salted caramel truffle, and the strawberries and clotted cream truffle – and introduces four ‘special guest’ chocolates at a time which change seasonally. All chocolates are lovingly crafted on site and decorated by hand.
TNT were given a selection of six of the most popular chocolates to sample – set in a box tied with a silky ribbon and presented to us in a quaint brown paper bag sporting the Cocoa Tree logo.
All of the chocolate displayed here, Lyndsey explained, are from ethical co-operative companies, where the profit stays within the country in which the chocolate is produced. On sale here was chocolate from Madagascar, for example, which is apparently an up and coming country in the chocolate trade.
We had an Aztec hot chocolate – what Lyndsey described as “our take on how chocolate was enjoyed when it was first discovered by the Aztec’s.” This Madagascan blend of dark chocolate, ginger, cayenne cinnamon and nutmeg with hot water as opposed to whole milk, is spicy and flavoursome, and not too rich and sickly as many coffee shop hot chocolates air towards.
A waitress told TNT that all their drinks are made with the same chocolates from which they make their truffles – and so, “if you like our chocolate, you like our drinks!”
TNT also sampled an iced chocolate, which is made by melting the chocolate and combining it with ice cream, which they source from Derbyshire and is of the highest quality. The drink was cool, light and foamy with a glorious chocolatey flavour. It was extremely moreish.
Furthermore, we had a chocolate fondue to taste. A recent addition to the menu, and costing £3.50, this comprised a delicate teacup brimming with milk-chocolate dip alongside an assortment of strawberries, banana slices, cubes of fudge and spongey marshmallows.
TNT were also offered a salted caramel brownie, baked by local gem Nicky Griffiths. The plate was adorned with milk chocolate drizzled into a heart shape. The brownie was squidgy and gooey and surpassed every expectation, although the salted caramel flavour was not hugely apparent.
Whilst there, TNT noticed how waitresses addressed customers by name, were aware of their particular favourites, and overall had established a close relationship with them. We were impressed by the degree of personalisation to the service. Evidently, Cocoa Tree has already generated for itself a loyal following.