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TASTING NOTES

Timothy Barber
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ANYONE who is a caffeine refusnik like me will know the envy that comes from watching colleagues fortify themselves on a bleak, thankless morning with weapons-grade coffee. I can’t stand the taste of either coffee or tea, but I long for something more tempting than Lucozade to give me the kind of boost caffeine drinkers can rely on.

I may have found it. The City, of course, is partly built upon coffee, Lloyds of London most famously starting life as a coffee shop. But prior to coffee’s dominance there were other exotic brews from the colonies to be tried, as a hungover Samuel Pepys testified in 1661: “Waked in the morning with my head in a sad taking through the last night’s drink, so rose and went to drink our morning draught in jocolatte to settle my stomach.”

Jocolatte sounds like a Starbucks concoction, but it’s basically hot chocolate. Not the silky, sugar-infused drink we’re used to today, but a rawer kind as drunk for aeons in the central American regions from which cocoa emanated. For a time the concoction was just about as popular in London as coffee – and now it’s back.

I wrote a few weeks ago about Rabot Estate, a rustic new shop in Borough Market selling chocolate imported from a St Lucian cocoa plantation of the same name. “Cocoa tea”, as the drink is now known, is one of its offerings. Unlike normal hot chocolate cocoa, it’s made from unrefined cacao beans that are ground down and melted in skimmed milk. That apparently means it’s still packed with various goodly constituents like fibre, iron, magnesium and lots of antioxidants.

It’s got a kick too. On a morning in which I’d woken with my head in a sad taking and then some after the last night’s drink, I put cocoa tea to the test. It was pretty raw and earthy to taste – even with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, it’s hardly luxurious. But it had a certain aromatic grace and – for a period – was delightfully reviving. You can get it with spices in too, or with a drop of Caribbean rum –?Pepys would no doubt have approved of that.

Rabot Esate, 2 Stoney St, Borough Mkt, SE1 9AA. www.rabotestate.co.uk.