Interviewing Gabi Soule from Rococoa Chocolate Shop
I find Rococoa Chocolate Shop on the ground floor of the The Palms Lifestyle Centre in Sir Lowry road just a block away from Buchanan Square and the popular eatery, The Kitchen. When entering the shop in Woodstock I smell two of my favourite aromas; coffee and chocolate and suddenly I’m filled with passion and a great urge to know how to make chocolate.
I meet up with Gabi around 11:00 and as we sit in the chocolatier’s coffee shop drinking Lavazza Coffee, the background is filled with the sound of a water fountain.
In my eye line I see chocolate gifts, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory books and a large chocolate fountain overflowing with liquid chocolate like a big cocoa bean mountain erupting delicious waves of sweet chocolate lava…
Describe Rococoa in one sentence.
Well, our product is awesome, healthy, keeps you young, slim and trim, it’s filled with anti-oxidants, a super food… and we have a passion about educating people regarding the goodness of chocolate.
Did you get that in one sentence?
She quickly grabs me by the arm to show me the
chocolate museum in her chocolate shop.
Tell me about your museum.
We have replications of cocoa plants and these over here [she takes me to a little shed] are real cocoa beans.
[Gabi breaks a bean so that I can smell the cocoa- it smells like raw chocolate… incredible.]
Its appearance is similar to the coffee bean, but better of course. The cocoa bean is filled with anti-oxidants, magnesium, helps with depression and gives you so much energy when you eat it in its raw state.
Gabi shows me a 17th century chocolate factory set-up with displays and beautiful décor to re-enact the journey of cocoa bean to chocolate.
What sets you apart from other Artisan Chocolate businesses?
I believe it is our focus on educating our customers regarding the history, usefulness and health benefits of chocolate and the cocoa bean.
We are also launching a new event namely Chocolate and Beer pairing. Of course we do Chocolate and Wine pairing, but the beer is a whole new adventure.
We do events, tours, birthday parties and team building all built around chocolate.
So it’s retail, small scale production, education, our coffee shop and some new exciting things in the pipeline which I cannot reveal just as of yet…
The Beer pairing sounds unusual, tell us more about this event.
We are using Belgian and local chocolate. We will also be adding some natural flavouring and salt to some of the chocolate like the Mayans and Mexicans used to make before the discovery of adding sugar to chocolate.
And the Beers?
Well, following the Cape Town trend of microbreweries, we will be using beers from Brewers⋃ namely Steph Weiss and Handwerk.
How did you become a Chocolatier?
By default. [Gabi laughs.] For many years I was involved in Cake Decorating and I truly only became interested in chocolate when I went to a friend’s demonstration of chocolate making. My passion for chocolate that I was now discovering soon led me to Amsterdam where I studied confectionery. Back home I had been running a chocolate factory for 12 years producing for large retail groups. This soon become dull and boring to me.
So I sold my business and downscaled so that I would have flexibility to be creative again and have fun with chocolate.
My desire had always been to incorporate education
alongside the chocolate.
These days, people are so detached from the production process of food that when you ask kids where milk comes from, they answer you;
“From the milk bottle”…
I love educating people about chocolate and together with that, my other dream of having retail chocolate and a coffee shop soon followed.
What is your most popular product at Rococoa?
It must be our Chocolate Pizzas. While in the Netherlands, I saw these mini chocolate discs named Studentun Haver that everyone was raving about. I just decided to make bigger ones so that a group of friends can break pieces off and enjoy it together.
The bases are made up of chocolate and then topped with either
nuts or dried fruits.
Some include pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, orange and almond shavings, or a popular one has a combination of chilli’s, lime zest and coconut flakes. We also have a white chocolate pizza with pecan nuts, cranberries and salt… just to break off that sweet edge…
Another very popular product in our chocolate shop is our Chocolate Therapy in a Tin.
It’s chocolate, liquid glucose and honey, which resembles the texture of play dough. Some stroke patients actually use it as muscle exercises. It can also be used as a stress ball… and because it’s edible… you can eat your own stress.
Have you thought of selling Chocolate Body Paint for the adventurous?
We need to!
[Gabi laughs again.] The packaging will be very important though… but this is one of our pipeline projects.
If you were a chocolate, which type of chocolate would you be?
Dark and Nutty with a zest of orange!
Tell us about your Chocolate Academy.
At the moment our kitchen is all about having fun, getting messy and playing with the chocolate. Because we have limited production capacity we stick to a casual hands-on approach. But Rococoa is a growing business and I have come across those wanting a more formal course. So to enable us to offer this, we’ll need some investors to create the capacity for a professional academy.
You mentioned that Rococoa hosts events and does team building… elaborate.
We recently had a professor from UCT who brought along his PA’s and other professors to a Friday afternoon Chocolate and Wine Pairing. This soon turned into truffle making in our kitchen. Rolling, dipping, laughing and all in the name of chocolate.
Whatever a customer requires, we’ll create a custom-made package for them. It all depends on how much time they have and what their budget looks like.
We also host school outings where children can learn about chocolate. Every child receives a ball of chocolate play dough to create whatever they want.
Rococoa also does outside catering and we have a lovely venue
attached to our current space where one can seat up to 60 guests
and still have a dance floor.
Perfect for weddings, functions, networking, birthdays or exhibitions. It’s very versatile with a lounge area, bar, outside entrance and room for a satellite kitchen.
What can we expect to see at Rococoa in the years to come?
Let’s keep it a mystery for now. All I will say is that we are looking into many different avenues regarding chocolate like health and beauty.
To keep Rococoa rolling, we want to remain different, fresh, unique and become your one stop chocolate business and
ultimate chocolate destination.
Content | Ed Beukes