Chocolate (or at least the purer form coming from the Theobroma cacao tree), has been cultivated for over three millennia. The earliest known use is around 1100 B.C. Since that time, consumption has undergone many transitions, from bitter drink to sweet drink, from chocolate mass to candy bar, from dark chocolate to milk chocolate to white chocolate. In the Western world, it has typically been associated with desserts or sweet treats. Chocolate is usually available in prepackaged form at the local supermarket or convenient store or in a more luxurious form at higher-end chocolate stores. Yet now chocolate consumption is undergoing a new transition: to the chocolate café, a place where people can go to indulge their sweet tooth while relaxing and socializing in a trendy setting.< 저작권자 © 광운미디어위원회 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >
I have never understood chocolate. If I eat more than a couple of bites, I tend to feel sick. I believe this is because of my taste buds. There have been recent scientific studies that people have different taste sensations depending on the distribution of taste buds on their tongues. Taste bud concentration is the amount of taste buds per square inch. “Low tasters” have fewer taste buds and therefore have great tolerance for various tastes. “Supertasters” have a large density of taste buds and are very sensitive to things that are overly sweet, rich, or spicy. There is evidence that there is a racial component to tongue physiology, such that Europeans are more sensitive to tastes and flavors, and ethnicities that have a culture of spicy cuisine (such as Asia or Latin America) are more likely to be more tolerant to extremes of stimulation. I deduce that I am a supertaster, which is why chocolate has never had great appeal to me.
Most people, though, are “moderate tasters,” and fully enjoy the chocolate experience. Yet around the world people seem to be getting bored with chocolate, whether from heightened health-consciousness or from simple disinterest. Chocolate cafes have stimulated interest in chocolate again, through a combination of gourmet chocolate and a locale that promotes relaxation and socialization in a hip environment.
There are a variety of chocolate cafes in Seoul (such as Café Jubilee Chocolatier, De Chocolate, C’lucy Café du Chocolatier, and Chocolateria San Churro, to name just a few). They all offer premium chocolate, desserts, and coffee in a stylish atmosphere where one can conveniently and comfortably chat with friends. The chocolate café has proven to be quite successful, for a number of reasons.
These chocolate cafes are not cheap, so visiting one is usually an act of indulging oneself or entertaining friends. Initially, patrons most likely are brought there by a friend, discover it by accident, or are prompted by an eye-catching advertisement. Even though customers are already familiar with chocolates and desserts, after visiting, customers may become enamored of the quality and ambience of the establishment and may return repeatedly.
In addition, most people love chocolate, love relaxing, and love periodically indulging themselves. If alone, a simple chocolate bar may satisfy any cravings. But when entertaining one’s peers, there is a greater desire to impress with a snazzy location. When with friends, there is more interest in splurging in a luxurious environment. Social visibility may also be a significant factor in visiting a chocolate cafe and may motivate the consumer more than any other factor. These cafes are thought of as chic, hip, and classy, and at the same time moderately extravagant, and so demonstrate the possession of disposable income and upward mobility.
Many other factors would contribute to a patron choosing to visit a chocolate café. Gender is most likely very important; most customers are women. There is just not as much appeal for men. Women buy chocolate to make themselves feel better. Men buy chocolate to make women feel better. But the customer should also be of an age at which splurging on high quality goods does not hurt their wallet too much.
Culture could be influential, for in countries with limited space such as South Korea, cafes and coffee shops provide a way to get out of the house and visit friends in a central location. The appearance of a higher social class would help create repeat customers who would contribute to the “80/20 Rule,” such that 80% of a company’s sales come from only 20% of the customer base. The most influential factors go back to social visibility and status and include other psychological factors, such as relaxation, self-indulgence, stress management, and social satisfaction.
Chocolate cafes are becoming increasingly popular in Korea. They have focused on the social dynamic, creating an atmosphere that is conducive to not only splurging, but also demonstrating the ability to splurge. One could say that the perception of success is indistinguishable from actual success. Chocolate cafes satisfy many customer needs that include satisfying one’s chocolate craving, demonstrating that one can afford that satisfaction, and sharing such sweet satisfaction with others.