Focus Network Agencies (FNA), the Singapore based branded consumer lifestyle group, has partnered with Cosmo Fine Foods Pvt. Ltd., an Indian organization offering the widest range of international chocolate brands, to launch the boutique store range, The Cocoa Trees in India. The Cocoa Trees is a retail concept store which offers the widest range of international brands under its umbrella. Conceptualized in 2000, it has now grown into a retail chain of 36 boutiques across Asia with presence in China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The Cocoa Trees in India are currently in the cities of Mumbai, Pune and Goa. In Mumbai, the first store was opened at Breach Candy in 2011, and they have recently expanded with two new stores - in Nature's Basket, Bandra and at R City Mall, Ghatkopar. When I was invited to check out their new outlets, I felt exactly like Charlie must have in the chocolate factory. Upon entering the Nature's Basket outlet in Bandra, one is greeting with these huge banners to the left, which announce the presence of a dedicated chocolate section in the basement.
Down a flight of stairs, one sees gift baskets of chocolate things and exclusive shelves of mostly imported chocolate, but these are Nature's Basket properties.
The Cocoa Trees is bright section up front and unmistakable with its happy yellow interiors. Row upon row of the world's best chocolates is quite enough to drive a chocolate aficionado like me mad. In a perfect dream, I would have unlimited money and a super sized shopping cart inside The Cocoa Trees! :)
The Cocoa Trees stocks the best international and indigenous brands including Anthon Berg, Cadbury, Celebrations, Chupa Chups, Cote d’Or, Daim, Droste, Duc d’O, Fazer, Ferrero, , Gavottes, Goldkenn, Haribo, Hawaiian Host, Hershey’s, Jelly Belly, Jules Destrooper, Kagi, Kinder, Lorenz, M&M’s, Maltesers, Mars, Mentos, Merci, Milka, Ritter Sport, Snickers, Starburst, Storz, Swiss Delice, Taveners, The Belgian, Tic Tac, Toblerone. The Cocoa Trees also stocks rare brands like Frey, which are exclusively licensed to be sold only at their stores. Besides, new brands like Zaini which have all Disney characters in their edd-shaped chocolates, have been added.
I saw these cute Zaini chocolate boxes shaped like the Disney character, Lightning Mc Queen from the movie Cars and thought, THIS! my 3-year-old will love! Other kiddy touches like the Chupa Chups lillipop stand with giant lollipop-shaped containers, teddies holding candy and M & M stands shaped like their popular animated avatars make the store an altogether delightful place for young customers.
But there are plenty of things to get not so young customers like me excited too. For example, some unbelievable flavours like the Frey Lemon Pepper Dark chocolate! Lemon Pepper? But that's what one puts in their soup, right? I HAD to pick a bar up. Review will be up soon!
And then there were these Oreo boxes shaped like giant cookies that totally make you want to forget your diet and container after container of different chocolate flavours from Sorini and Ritter Sport Minis that are sold by weight. Mind-blown as I was, there was some space for heartbreak too when I noticed that the store did not have any Toblerone dark chocolate. Are you'll taking note, dear store owners?
After walking around and gushing over all these beauties, it was time to leave. I was presented with a gorgeous hamper from The Cocoa Trees that comprised a box each of some delightful Belgian Pralines, Jules Destrooper Belgian Chocolate Thins (biscuits) and Merci assorted chocolates. I was a little disappointed to find most of these melting by the time I took them home, but then these delicate exotic things can hardly be expected to withstand Mumbai summers.
Anyhow, what's a little melted chocolate when they're so darned beautiful and mmmm...-inducing? I tried German-made Merci first, which is a collection of 20 fine assorted chocolates. The flavours include Milk Chocolate, Coffee & Cream, Hazelnut-Almond, Hazelnut-Creme, Marzipan, Dark Cream, Dark Mousse and Praline-creme. They are ideally had at room temperature, but I had to keep them in the fridge to save their form. Even when hardened, they chocolates melt quickly in the mouth and lose none of their rich delightful flavours.
At INR 550, this 250 g pack of 20 assorted chocolates makes for a wonderful gift idea, and if it is a chocolate aficionado you are trying to impress, look no further. You will say 'merci' to me for this one.
Next up was a pack of four Belgian pralines, so amazing I would have been happy only kissing them. Too bad they had melted a lot as well and needed refrigeration and eventual eating. I know, what a hard life I have. :D The Belgian pralines from... duh, Belgium, are crafted to perfection and are almost worth their price (almost 50 bucks apiece!). For those who don't know, regular pralines refer to a confection made of nuts and sugar, but Belgian pralines have a hard chocolate shell with a soft (sometimes liquid) filling. They are also referred to as chocolate bonbons or Belgian chocolates.
The four pralines in this box included a white chocolate, a milk chocolate, a dark chocolate and a dark chocolate with nuts. Delicate doesn't even begin to describe these lovelies and they were lapped up before one could say 'Bless The Cocoa Trees'.
And finally, there was a chocolate-biscuit pack from a brand that's completely new to me - Jules Destrooper. The Belgian biscuiterie (my favourite new word!) is over a hundred years old and if I've never heard of it, that must be because very few, if any, places in India import it. But that's changing, of course, because of The Cocoa Trees. The best, most exotic chocolate brands of the world are now available under one roof.
The 100 g Jules Destrooper pack of Belgian Chocolate Thins are nothing but chocolate coated crispy biscuits. The kinds of chocolate are the usual dark, milk and white, only Amazing with a capital A. The biscuits are of just the perfect hardness and crunch and taste unbelievably good in combination with the chocolate. Because these babies melted too, I have no idea whether there are 10 thins or five in that pack - they got stuck, I think. Nevertheless, they are well worth their INR 275, and I most definitely recommend it, as I recommend a visit to The Cocoa Trees.
Seriously people, whether or not you are a chocolate aficionado, make one trip to experience the unique concept of this store. Also, people who are clueless about gift ideas, The Cocoa Trees is the answer to all your prayers.
Address: The Cocoa Trees, @ The Nature's Basket, Hill Road, Bandra, Mumbai
Phone: 022 - 26425050, 26421122