Tell us about Chocolate Ecstasy Tours. What does a Tour involve?
“Lots of chocolatey deliciousness! Chocolate Ecstasy Tours is about showing people to the best chocolate, teaching them how to identify good chocolate and helping people to understand what their personal preferences are, as well as some fun chocolate facts. On the walking tours you are met by a Certified Chocoholic Guide who will introduce you and everyone in the group to chocolate (and to each other!) and escort you all to some of London’s finest chocolateries. The chocolate shops all know that we’re coming and have their best and most unique chocolates ready for us to sample. We learn about chocolate, the shops and little bits of history of the area, too. Most importantly you get to taste lots of chocolate and any you want to buy to take with you, you get a discount on! We also offer “Static Tours” where we bring the chocolates to people and talk (and taste) them through the history of chocolate, how it’s made and all the different types of chocolate and what you can do with it.”
How long have you been running the tours and how did you come up with the idea?
“The first tour was four years ago now! Then I launched to the public in January 2006. I’m crazy about chocolate – all food really – and I love London and I love meeting people. Friends bought me chocolate for my birthday not long after I moved here and I had never heard of the brands. When I went to seek out the shops for myself I found some were in really sweet side streets and alleys and I thought that others might like to know where these chocolate secrets are too!”
Do you have a typical client? What kind of person takes a Chocolate Ecstasy Tour?
“We definitely don’t have a typical client, but my very unscientific research has show that chocoholics are lovely people, so it’s always great fun! I was surprised when I began the tours how many men were in the groups, although lately it has been slightly more women. Ages range from 15 to 80 (and some little’uns as well occasionally) and people come with their parents, partners, friends, on their own.
Most of the people actually live within an hour of London, I think it’s a nice way for locals to see the city because the tour part is intersected by lots of fun and indulgent tasting of delicious chocolate.”
Is this all you do, or do you have a day job?
“When I first set up the tours I was working part-time in small businesses and charities (or for individuals). I started working full time two years ago and so I started hiring guides to help out with the tours (though I still guide many myself – I still love it!).”
Do you have a long term plan for the tours? What’s next for you?
“Working full time doesn’t give me a lot of time to do as much creatively as I would like to, but there is a plan for a new “Sweets and Treats” tour in the pipeline that I’m very excited about!”
Do you have a personal favourite chocolate shop?
“Argh… It would be like picking a favourite child (I imagine – I don’t have children)! I genuinely couldn’t choose just one. Every store really is unique and I have favourites in each shop. It’s interesting to watch on the tours how different stores and different chocolates appeal to different people.”
You travel all over the world – where’s the best city/country to buy chocolate right now?
“Two years ago when I went to Paris I was so impressed, but when I went more recently, although still excellent, the overall scene didn’t compare to the chocolate in London. I’m desparate to get to New York and San Francisco because there’s some great chocolate being made there right now and I want to stand in the shops and taste it there for myself! (Trips are being planned in the coming six months!)
I really do believe London has the best chocolate in the world right now, and it gets better by the day.”
How are you planning on celebrating Chocolate Week? Any special events planned?
“Chocolate Week? Every week is chocolate week! For this official Chocolate Week I’m definitely heading to check out Chocolate Unwrapped and I hope to take in a chocolate dinner at one of the restaurants participating. Chocolate in savoury food is a fabulous exploration of taste.
Chocolate Ecstasy Tours is running the Mayfair tour at the special price of £30 (normally £35) every weekday this week and we’re running a bespoke Belgravia tour on Thursday afternoon. I’m running a Full Day Chocolate Tour on Saturday 17th and it’s already sold out! I might put on another one early next year if the waiting list for it keeps growing!”