Surrounded by a huge variety of chocolaty merchandise, the layout of this Hotel Chocolat store immediately draws me in. Beautifully designed boxes filled with colourful and imaginatively named chocolates instantly capture my eye.

I look around and on the other side of the shop all along the wall are “Selectors”, six chocolates in minimal packaging looking fresh and innovative. Chocolate snowflakes and festive wreaths are already on display along with a wide range of products like cocoa lip balms and body butters.

Aishah our host is buzzing with enthusiasm as everyone arrives; her assistant soon appears carrying a tray full of tall champagne flutes filled with sparkling Prosecco ready for our “Chocolate lock in,” an informal tasting session. There are about ten of us in the group, we take off our coats ready to mingle and chat about our favourite chocolates. I find a kindred spirit who like me always has some chocolate at the bottom of her handbag.

We’re asked to stand around a unit where chocolate items have been arranged for each of us. Aishah begins with a welcoming smile and takes us on the chocolate-making journey telling us a little about the farming, harvesting and fermentation process unique to Hotel Chocolat. We’re each given a couple of large cocoa beans from the plantation in St Lucia and break them open. They’re grainy and smell of mild bitter chocolate. The pestle and mortar is then passed around and we all have a go grinding some beans down to a powder.

Aishah tells us how Hotel Chocolat prides itself on their pioneering signature “less sugar more cocoa”. We’re shown a chunk of cocoa butter and sugar and find out how it is made. I must admit since the Milky Bar Kid has disappeared from our TV screens, white chocolate is generally not a popular choice.

We are then presented with five chocolates. Ta-dah! We try some dark, milk, coconut and mousse-filled truffles. We’re asked to smell them first, feel them in our hands then let them melt in our mouths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth letting our senses come alive. I smile and feel like a child again with nothing much going on in my head but the taste of fresh chocolate!

Our host prides herself on the fact that Hotel Chocolat has an ‘engaged chocolate ethics program’ supporting farmers with a fair price and that in 2006 the company bought the Rabot Estate in St Lucia, making it the only company in the UK to own it’s own cocoa plantation.

After two or three truffles Aishah suggests that there’s no need to finish them all if we’ve had enough. Everybody laughs at the absurdity of her suggestion and to end our tasting session she comes clean about the sheer quantities of chocolate that she consumes on a regular basis.

I‘ve truly enjoyed this chocolate tasting adventure and tuning into the tastes, aromas and textures. I leave feeling relaxed after a nice glass of bubbly and decide to walk all the way home powered by chocolate.