Review – Chocaffinitea
The daffodils are in bloom, the seagulls have resumed their dawn chorus and I’m thoroughly fed up of spring hayfever. This can only mean one thing: Easter is coming. And by that I obviously mean: it’s chocolate time!
I’m not booking a dentist appointment just yet, though. Chocolate – the right kind – is exceptionally good for us, as Heather and Paul Smith, owners of North Laine café Chocaffinitea, are keen to prove. On their travels around the southern hemisphere a few years ago, they discovered single origin chocolate and artisanal bean-to-bar production, while in Australia they fell for the popular Aussie culture of the chocolate café.
“Our minds were blown by the chocolate we tasted out there,” says Heather. “There were chocolate shops and cafés everywhere, and we returned home obsessed with the idea of opening our own, and to change the common perception that chocolate is bad for us.”
And what a lovely spot their café is. A narrow exterior belies a bright, fresh two-storey interior, part café/part shop, where the music is great and you can enjoy Monmouth coffee, loose-leaf tea, sandwiches (bread is supplied by Silo), salads and raw chocolate desserts homemade by Heather. For those in need of a full-whack sugar fix, brownies by Mr Bake are always available, or just pop in for beautifully packaged, thoughtfully sourced chocolate bars, hot chocolate kits, chocolate eggs and chocolate-covered coffee beans and cacao nibs. It’s the perfect place to pick up some seriously good-looking Easter treats.
While travelling, the couple became interested in the raw food movement. “I began reading blogs and experimenting with recipes, making my own dairy and sugar-free desserts,” says Heather. “I couldn’t believe how great they tasted, plus they were actually good for me! It was such a brilliant, radical concept. You get this sweet treat, but without a massive lull afterwards.”
Heather’s eye-catching, ever-changing display of homemade desserts may include Madagascan-topped salted peanut caramel (a bestseller), raw chocolate brownies, triple chocolate cashew slices or antioxidant-packed chocolate truffles. Heather’s key lime pie is sweet, creamy and zesty – it’s hard to believe it contains no dairy or sugar at all.
“The vegan element of a lot of our food is a tricky one,” says Paul. “It can be off-putting to some – they’re wary of ‘that funny-looking vegan food’ – so we don’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves by shouting about how vegan-friendly we are. But by not mentioning it, we might be missing out on a lot of vegan customers. Basically, we love when people come in for a cappuccino, order a dessert without realising it’s raw or vegan, and say how much they enjoyed it!”
Chocaffinitea’s hot chocolate has definitely become one of their main draws: made with organic 70% Madagascan chocolate and a blend of spices – no sugar, no milk – it’s the most delicious pick-me-up. They’re planning to launch a white hot chocolate this Easter too, plus chocolate sharing platters. Next time you’re in town, give this place a try.
Chocaffinitea, 103 Gloucester Road, Brighton BN1
Words by Suzanne Rose.
First published in the Brighton & Hove Independent on 27/03/2015