Local chocolate company opens bricks-and-mortar flagship shore

By Steven Short

Coastal Cocoa’s James Bridger has been a chocolate lover for as long as he can remember and according to his family, even longer than that, telling me, “Apparently, I once climbed out of my cot to scoff my dad’s chocolate cake!” While that memory is lost to James, he can recall, however, a family biscuit tin full of chocolate biscuits and a general love of all things sweet. “I would always have to try every dessert at Christmas and family celebrations. I’ve always had a sweet tooth!”

Before moving to Hastings, James worked in IT and claims to have very little natural ability in the kitchen, “I’m someone whose idea of cooking is putting a pizza in the oven.” It was a birthday gift that was to plant the seed of his chocolate company Coastal Cocoa. “My wife bought me a one-day chocolate-making class at Leiths School of Food and Wine. At the end of the day I amazed myself by having something presentable and edible. My wife was really surprised by how good the chocolates I brought home were.” 

Testing times

From then on James began experimenting with chocolate, making batches at weekends and testing them out on friends and work colleagues. He worked from his tiny kitchen, finally investing in a chocolate tempering machine when he saw one on discount. In 2019, James and his wife, Augusta Arnold, made the move from Hackney to Hastings, and from full-time employment to pursuing his love of all things chocolate, spending the summer developing a core collection of chocolate truffles, designing packaging, learning all about food hygiene, and formulating a business plan. 

James began selling his chocolates online and at local markets as “I love meeting people and talking about chocolate.” He is now ready to take his business to the next level with the opening of a shop in Queens Arcade. 

Show and tell

“We reached a point where we needed more space if the business was to grow and we thought, if we were going to get a bigger kitchen we might as well have some retail space, too.” Coastal Cocoa’s first bricks-and-mortar outpost will have an open kitchen where customers can watch James at work. “I think people will really like seeing the chocolate going around in the big machines,” says James, “I’m going to design the space so that while I’m working, I’ll also be able to talk to people and answer their questions about chocolate and how it’s made.” James hopes the Queens Arcade shop will be open by mid-October, in time for everyone to stock up on Christmas chocolate essentials. 

Find Coastal Cocoa at Queens Arcade, Queen’s Road, TN34 1PA. Stay up to date @coastalcocoa and www.coastalcocoa.co.uk

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