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October 19th, 2017

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The Next Starbucks?

Lenore Skenazy

By Lenore Skenazy

Published June 2, 2015

 The Next Starbucks?

Nobody knows the truffles I've seen.

That's because most people have not spent a day running around to a bevy of brand-new chocolate shops, ogling such things as hazelnut-lime-infused-72-percent-cocoa-content-bittersweet-chocolate bonbons and vowing, "This time, I am not going to miss the huge trend staring me in the face!"

I.e., chocolate. Trust me; fancy candy is going to be the next big thing — bigger than cupcakes! Bigger than the Cronut! And I should know — having, ahem, learned from my mistakes.

Let's just say that in the early '90s, my editor made me write an article titled "Gourmet Coffee, the Next Big Thing?"

I interviewed a couple of coffee nuts who had opened cafes in Seattle, and I quickly concluded: The next big thing? No way! Who's going to be stupid enough to pay a whole dollar for a cup of java? Who cares about what country a coffee bean comes from? Who's got time to sit in a cafe anyway? What are we, French? Is everyone going to sit around scribbling memoirs? As if! And who, pray tell, wants a cardboard "java jacket" wrapped around her cup? Sounds like a toilet paper roll! "Gourmet coffee"? Ha! I never gave it a second thought.

Until I started tithing $1.79 every afternoon to Starbucks.

So I am now a bit more open-minded when staring down a mega-trend. And let me tell you: Chocolate is staring back.

Like bottled water, balsamic vinegar, crusty bread, herbal tea, grainy mustard — OK, like every other once-generic food — chocolate is soaring upscale. Just look around — provided you are looking around hip areas of hip cities where hip kids drain their un-hip, Maxwell House-drinking parents' bank accounts — and you will see gourmet chocolate shops springing up like mango-coriander truffles.

These — along with their raspberry- and chili-flavored brethren — are about the size of a pat of butter and cost $1.35 each at one of the chocolate bars (as it were) that I hit.

"When we first opened two years ago," said Alison, the skinny-as-a-Hershey-bar waitress (chocolatress?), "the first thing people said was, 'Wow, that's a lot of money for a small piece of chocolate!' And now those same people come in and don't think twice."

Just like me at Starbucks!

Except I always think twice.

But Alison has a point: As fancy chocolates like hers start popping up, people try them and tastes begin to change. How you gonna keep 'em down on the Nestle Crunch after they've tried a $4 "Bittersweet, 60 percent Cocoa Content, Ghana Origins" bar from the Jacques Torres super-shop? Or his "20 percent Ivory Coast, 80 percent Ecuador" blend?

You can't! At least, I don't think you can. Can you? Maybe you can. I don't know! I've been wrong before! But this time, I feel it right down to my java jacket. That's why I'm working on a brand-new kind of chocolate holder: the bonbon bonnet.

Go ahead and scoff.

But also consider opening a savings account. That way, in a few years, you'll be able to afford a peanut butter cup.

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