For the final instalment on our time in Rye, we had to talk about Knoops.
We were advised by our host at the Rye Windmill that the most amazing hot chocolate could be found at the opposite end of town, if we happened over there during the weekend. We left the B&B with an hour to kill before dinner on the first night, and having not forgotten our host's words, we made a b-line for Knoops, incapable of waiting a day to try this mythical cocoa café. (Plus, it had been at least a few hours since our last sugar fix..)
Situated just the other side of the historic Landgate, Knoops sits unassumingly, the smallest and last of a row of old brick dwellings. The signage is clean and graphic; black sans serif text on a large white awning, and a sandwich board clearly stating
"PURVEYORS OF THE FINEST HOT CHOCOLATE".
It's immediately different to the other twee cafés and vintage tea rooms about town. Knoops is modest and functional. Minimal furnishing and decoration mean that there is absolutely no distraction from the centre piece: the chocolate menu. A feature wall lined with clipboards setting out the huge array of cocoa percentages and flavour notes available for your delectation. It's fascinating, and to a stranger, slightly intimidating.
Luckily, the friendly purveyor of finest hot chocolate himself, Jens Knoop, is there to help you out. Whether you're a cacao connoisseur or a total novice, with some gentle probing he can suss you out and suggest the perfect hot chocolate for your taste. And there is something for every taste.
You can have your drink pure, with a chocolate spectrum ranging from a hardcore 100% dark Madagascan, through to the 60 and 70%s, where you will find superb single origin chocolates (the São Tomé is amazing!); down to a dreamy milk chocolate blend at 34%, and for those with a really sweet tooth, the creamy white hot chocolate options around 30%. All the chocolates are wonderful as they are, served in drinking bowls with hot, frothing milk artistically poured over. If you're feeling like experimenting, however, you can play around with a variety of flavour additions; spices, fruit zests, salts and peppers, or a shot of espresso (or booze!).
Some of their recommended flavour blends are available to buy in store to take home, or you can purchase online over on their recently opened Etsy shop. Nothing beats actually being there, but if you have a milk frother, you can have a go at recreating the magic for yourself: a small comfort as Jens hands you your final hot chocolate of the weekend, this time to take away, and you hop in your car to begin the 3 hour journey home to the Midlands.
See you soon, Knoops!