CEO & Co-founder of Hotel Chocolat
To say that Angus Thirlwell is passionate about chocolate is an understatement. As he willingly admits, it’s more of an obsession. Together with his business partner, Peter Harris, he founded Hotel Chocolat in 2004 with two specific aims for their chocolate: for it to excite the senses and for it to be widely available.
Angus religiously eats chocolate every day, tastes and approves every single recipe the company produces, and is as much at home in the development kitchen – affectionately known as the ‘inventing room’ – as he is in the boardroom or among the cocoa trees. It was a bold move to become a cocoa grower, a point underlined by the fact that Hotel Chocolat is one of very few to do so, but it was all a natural progression of Angus’ passion for chocolate.
Fittingly for a company whose Tasting Club has seen customers having their say in its development from the beginning, Angus was inspired to guide Hotel Chocolat towards growing its own cocoa by another customer, who sent him a book she had found while tidying her husband’s study. The 1920 edition of Cocoa & Chocolate, Their History from Plantation to Consumer told of cocoa-growing in the West Indies, and was particularly inspirational to Angus since he spent much of his childhood there.
So began an intensive search that took in several islands until Angus and Peter found the Rabot Estate in Saint Lucia, which they bought almost immediately in April 2006. There, they have led the rejuvenation of the island’s oldest cocoa plantation, kick-starting a ‘cocoa renaissance’ on the island in the process through the company’s innovative Engaged Ethics programme. The rare Trinitario cocoa variety grown on Rabot Estate and by the company’s Island Grower partners swiftly won a clutch of awards.
From growing fine cocoa in Saint Lucia and creating the world’s first single-côte chocolate to opening a hotel, cafés and restaurants, it’s clear that Angus’ passion has only grown over the years, and that he’s on a mission to put the ‘Great’ back into British chocolate.