Next up in our Local Heroes series, where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great is Knoops, the chocolate drinks brand founded by Jens Knoops. He’s been called the Willy Wonka of the chocolate drinks world thanks to his creation of a customisable chocolate percentage menu and luxury chocolate flakes to use at home – bog standard hot chocolate this is not.

Chocolate had been a big part of Jens’s childhood in Germany – his grandma would reward him with it when he’d been good – though he wouldn’t make it his profession until after a career in the visual arts in London. “I had noticed a lack of decent hot chocolate shops whilst working in London, with only high-end chocolatiers offering one solo option. In most coffee shops it was just a sub-standard afterthought on the menu,” says Jens. “I thought about it and felt that I could have found my niche, my lightbulb moment!” Knoops (that’s pronounced kuh-noops by the way) was born and now numbers seven stores, four of which (Clapham, Chelsea, Richmond and Kensington) are in London, with another one potentially in the pipeline.

The philosophy behind Knoops is simple, as Jens says, “my aim is to prepare the best chocolate drinks for each and every customer. Considering that our clientele comes from all corners of the world, with different tastes and different expectations, the challenge is to deliver. There is nothing more rewarding than returning customers announcing that it was the best chocolate drink they ever had.” The Daily Telegraph even ran with a headline that read “Is this the best hot chocolate in the world?” in one article on Knoops, which was a definite highlight for Jens, as was the support the brand received during the pandemic. “Even in the darkest days of Covid, we got messages thanking us for staying open and how a warming, lovingly-made hot chocolate had brought our customers joy and comfort on their daily lockdown walks,” he says.

What makes Knoops the best hot chocolate in the world is the personalisation aspect. “We have over 20 different chocolate percentages to choose from in-store. Our hot and cold chocolate drinks are designed to be bespoke,” explains Jens. “It’s a process that I call Knoopology – the ultimate personalisation process is a four-step method. Individuals choose their preferred hot or cold drink followed by their chocolate percentage, then their milk, before finally enhancing their beverage with flavoursome add-ons. We pour it out into a mug or bowl for a smooth hot chocolate, or over cold milk and ice for an iced chocolate. You can even have it blended with ice cream for a delicious milkshake.” Knoops recently added their first vegan milk chocolate, the 38% Oat M*lk Chocolate Flakes, to the menu and Jens is always on the lookout for the “next interesting and sustainable chocolate to introduce to the range.”

As well as all the people who’ve visited Knoops in London and made the brand feel welcome, Jens wants to out “Chantal Coady OBE (aka The Chocolate Detective) for her charitable chocolate work, Holly Tucker MBE for supporting entrepreneurs, and Too Good To Go for reducing food waste.”