Meet the owners
First introduced to chocolate by his beloved grandmother, Jens Knoops has created an incredible eponymous brand, expertly crafting luxurious chocolate drinks. Jens explains what inspired Knoops and why he loves the Cambridge store
When did you first discover a passion for chocolate?
I think it started because from the age of about three, my grandmother would give me chocolate as a treat. It was quite ceremonial as I had to wash my hands, take my shoes off, and the armchair was covered with towels, so I wouldn’t make a mess, then my grandmother would give me a piece of chocolate. Of course, since then I’ve educated myself on the history of chocolate, cacao sourcing and so on, but the passion started with ‘you’ve been a good boy, here’s your reward with a piece of chocolate’.
What made you decide to specialise in chocolate, because you had a completely different career, didn’t you?
Absolutely. I came over to England to study photography and was really into analogue photography, but everything switched to digital so that was the end of that career. Then I was headhunted by a company that do live video streams of focus groups, which took me all over the world. Listening to these focus groups, people were talking about wanting to treat themselves, without breaking the bank, so investing in small luxuries, and that stuck with me. Then in 2012 I had the choice of either moving to my company HQ in America or applying everything I’d learned to something new. I remember walking through London trying to get a decent hot chocolate, but it was a desert. So, I thought, okay that’s my niche!
Can you explain the concept of Knoops?
It’s based on 22 different chocolate percentages starting with 28 per cent white chocolate all the way up to 100 per cent dark chocolate with everything in between, including lots of vegan hot chocolates. Then we have six ice chocolates which are the equivalent to a chocolate milk, as well as really indulgent milkshakes. So, it’s all about cacao percentages – how sweet or dark you want it – then which milk; we have eight different types including plant-based. We have around 20 ingredients you can add like cinnamon, vanilla, mint. What’s popular now is adding a little seasalt to milk chocolate to make it caramelly or fresh orange zest is amazing with 54 per cent dark chocolate, and chilli is classic with a darker chocolate. On top of that we make our own marshmallows, which are like big icebergs that float on top!
What’s your favourite blend?
Sometimes I need a mocha to give me energy. Other times I want sweet and then I like white chocolate with matcha, which is a bit out there! I taste and test chocolate all day long so I’m generally on a slight chocolate high, but on a nice level!
You’re something of a chocolate scientist, aren’t you?
A little bit – and if you walk into our stores, we have a chart of the chocolate percentages which resembles the Periodic Table. We have so many choices, it could be overwhelming, so our ‘Knoopologists’ are on hand to help customers, so will ask ‘what are your dietary requirements?’, ‘do you want to escape to the Solomon Islands?’, ‘do you want to be taken back to your childhood?’.
Where do you source your chocolate?
From all over the world, as cacao grows about 20 degrees north and south of the equator, and we work directly with the cacao farmers and chocolate makers.
What made you choose Cambridge for a Knoops store?
The location where we are in Green Street has very similar cobbles to the cobbled streets in Rye, where we opened our first Knoops, so it felt very comfortable and familiar. Cambridge is also ridiculously pretty, very international, has a lot of great restaurants and shopping opportunities, small artisan as well as the familiar stores; it has everything.
Do you have food in the Cambridge store?
We work with a local bakery which brings in fresh pastries, including croissants, every morning. The food offering is all sweet because it’s difficult to match savoury food with sweeter drinks.
What are your dreams for the future of Knoops in Cambridge?
I want people to say ‘let’s have a Knoops’ and they’ll know exactly what it means, rather than let’s have a hot chocolate. And if we achieve that in Cambridge, I’ll be very, very happy!
Knoops is at 28 Green Street, Cambridge. Find out more at knoops.co.uk
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