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Cocoa Joe’s: Not Your Average Joe - Interviewing Local Business

Sophie Burton talks to local business Cocoa Joe’s about their growing presence in York’s famous chocolate scene

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Image Credit: @cocoajoesuk

Chocolate. It is rare that you’ll come across someone who doesn’t love it. If you're anything like me, it’s one of your favourite things in the world. And if you're looking for your chocolate fix, it would seem Cocoa Joe’s is the place to go. I had the pleasure of interviewing founder and namesake, Joe, and getting to know a bit more about this hidden diamond in our city center.

The idea for Cocoa Joe’s actually came from when Joe was studying in York, surrounded by the chocolate heritage with Nestle and the York Chocolate Story. His mother also used to work at another chocolate company, so you could say it runs in his blood. The initial setup was a small market stall in London back in 2018, followed by the opening of the first shop in market town Pateley Bridge, but a part of Joe was always eager to return to his roots in York, as he thought it was the perfect location for the business. Low and behold, he was right, the York shop may be the company's most recent venture but it’s certainly popular with the customers.

If you haven’t been to Cocoa Joes, the basic premise is that they specialize in chocolate drinks. You go in and choose your type of chocolate, usually guided by the excellent knowledge of the staff to help you find your perfect choice, and then you can either have it made into a hot chocolate, a mocha or an iced chocolate - something I cannot wait to try in the summer! To top it off, there’s a variety of additional flavourings and toppings you can choose from for just 50p.

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The main inspiration for the business came as Joe witnessed the rising interest in different types of coffee as more and more artisan coffee shops began popping up on the radar. Joe explained that consumers have started to appreciate the fact that location matters when it comes to coffee, as they do with wine and whiskey – what seems like the same product can have completely different tastes depending on where it was made. And as Joe continues to prove, chocolate is no different. Joe outlined that he wants to challenge the notion that 'chocolate is chocolate’ and hopes customers will leave realising there is such a vast variety of chocolates, and personal taste and preferences hold a very high stake. He says, most chocolate we pick up from the shelves on the day to day tastes the same, with very little chocolate content and instead many unnecessary additives, he wants people to realise there is much more to be found.

I won’t lie, the first time I walked in I felt a bit intimidated by the menu, filled with different percentages and tasting notes, I didn’t know where to begin. But that’s where Cocoa Joe’s thrives -not only are their products top quality but there is an ingrained sense of pride in the customer service. Staff make you feel welcome, talking you through the menu and helping you find the chocolate that suits you best, giving you the opportunity to taste and try until you settle on your decisions. I may have been daunted when I walked through the door but in a matter of seconds, I was made to feel at home and supported. Joe explained that most people who come in, don’t know what they want, the menu is abstract and the priority is making customers feel comfortable. He identified that ‘food can be snobby’, if you’ve ever been to a winetasting I think you’ll agree, but for Joe, the big focus is on keeping things approachable and accessible, there’s no pressure and no judgement.

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He wants people to leave with a better knowledge of the possibilities of chocolates and to give customers the chance to see what their drinks are made from but also to have had a good time. He compares it to coffee, where there’s multiple factors in the process of making it that can impact the taste, he says “chocolate is simpler, you’re just adding two things together”. The motto being, “if you want a good hot chocolate, use good chocolate”.

Not only is the concept behind the business fascinating, they’re also doing their utmost to make the company as sustainable as possible. All of the chocolate can be traced back to the source and is vetted to a sustainability scheme. They even have a discount if you bring your own takeaway cup. I think it’s fair to say that this small startup is definitely one to watch! I’ve heard that they’ll be gracing our television screens in April as part of an Ainsley Harriot programme, and Joe was really enthusiastic about some of the exciting plans they've got in the pipeline over the next twelve months.

To think it started with melting down chocolate bars and messing around with a steam wand, Joe has truly found a wonderful niche in the market and I cannot wait to see what the future holds

Be sure to visit Cocoa Joe's at their York shop on Museum Street. Visit their website and check out their social media @cocoajoesuk .
Image Credits: @cocoajoesuk.

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