Nostalgia in a bar

2018-05-29 06:00
The team responsible for the magic.PHOTOS: Samantha Lee

The team responsible for the magic.PHOTOS: Samantha Lee

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In a cosy little shop, underneath a balcony, sits a world-class chocolate factory that could give Willie a run for his money.

With a small team of chocolatiers hard at work processing 8000kg worth of cocoa beans every month, the team at CocoaFair creates memories in each bar.

“Chocolate is emotional and we should not feel guilty about it. It really has an effect on you physically and mentally, especially when you find the right one that brings back that nostalgia,” says chocolatier Zonja Penzhom­.

As one of the very few chocolate makers around, CocoaFair has a unique tasting experience to help each person find their sweet spot – 100% chocolate – and it is like nothing you have ever tasted before.

“We are chocolate makers because we actually make the chocolate ourselves. We roast the beans and from that you get cocoa mass and cocoa butter and that is what the chocolate is made from,” she says.

Everything from cleaning the beans to flavouring and packaging the final chocolates, is done on site with the store shipping internationally as well, ringing true to their slogan “from bean to bar”.

“We do clean labelling because people want to see what is in the products. We don’t use anything artificial. It is cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. That is all that is in the chocolate,” says Penzhom.

This is of course besides their flavour-infused range of white, milk and dark chocolates as these include extracts from a variety of spices, herbs, fruits and roots.

Creating an extensive range of flavours and products to choose from, CocoaFair definitely has chocolate for every pallet.

From a refreshing but more conventional mint known as “peppermint crisp on steroids”, to a coffee, chilli or ginger infused chocolate, or for the more adventurous, a liquorice, lemongrass and cilantro or passion fruit and pepper combination.

And with continuous experimentation, these gourmet, hand-crafted treats will continue to please.

“We try to explore with South African flavours and flavours that are unique but that people may not have been used to before. Our main thing when doing these flavours is that we want people to taste the chocolate first and then the flavour, because you are buying the chocolate,” says Penzhom.

“We make what our tastebuds want. We are constantly exploring and creating new products­.”

And if you want even more variety, they also make a wide range of chocolate-covered, beans, nuts and berries.

“What makes our chocolate different is that it is chocolate for you. Yes we want to make the best chocolate, but our main aim is to make the best chocolate for you. It is emotional and people are looking for something. They go to chocolate for an emotional need, whether you are happy or sad or want to make someone happy. It is in those moments of sharing that we find your perfect chocolate pairing,” she says.

Their entire dark chocolate range is vegan and all their products are halaal and kosher certified.

The store opened in 2009 and is the only manufacturing store at the moment. The company is in the process of expanding by building another chocolate factory due to the growth of the brand.

The initiative, which started as a social skills development project, has progressed to a world-class establishment.

“It started out with giving people a skill that they could use in their futures as a project called social entrepreneurship. No one in the factory has any technical training in chocolate making. It was trial and error with looking at what we could do. From starting with cellophane packaging to this, a real business,” she says.

“We still love what we do and we still try, make mistakes and try again and test. Looking at it, coming up with ideas and even making our own machines sometimes. That is all it is.

“It started with wanting to teach people skills in life, wanting to take them further in life one day, and it turned into really good chocolate.”

Their chocolate is available at their store at the Old Biscuit Mill, online or at selected retailers.

The company has since also struck a deal with Vida e Caffè that sees their chocolate paired with coffee in a variety of flavours, sold at their cafes.

“We need to expand. It is really such a blessing.

“The Vida e collaboration is a really cool initiative. We started speaking last year and now we are making four chocolates for them. It is our chocolate and their coffee and it is a collaboration we are really proud of,” she says.

The store also offers tasting and tours for groups with prior booking, but be aware, everything will smell like chocolate – not that this is a bad thing!

So if it’s chocolate, flavours and a unique experience you want, or even just an excuse to indulge in a guilty pleasure or five, CocoaFair is a must visit.

V Find them at the Old Biscuit Mill Block C from Mondays to Fridays from 08:30 to 17:00 and Saturdays from 08:30 to 15:00, call 021 447 7355 or visit www.cocoafair.com.

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