September 26th, 2021


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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