Unwrapping a Little Piece of Paris in Dublin City – The Cocoa Atelier Story

Cocoa Atelier

Stepping across the threshold of Cocoa Atelier you may just forget that you are in the heart of Dublin’s Creative Quarter. With a decadent display to match even the chicest gourmet chocolate shop in Paris, this French-inspired, Irish-owned chocolate boutique on Drury Street transports you to the charming 6th arrondissement of the French capital, and by matter of fact will seduce even the most unsuspecting chocolate lover over to the dark (chocolate) side.

You won’t be blamed for lingering a while as you make your choice, inhaling the intoxicating aroma of fresh chocolate, with everything from their classic cocoa creations, to the seasonally changing and impressively eccentric offering all freshly made in small batches by Cocoa Atelier’s team of chocolatiers.

With velvety ganache, light, airy truffles, and signature éclairs that glisten in glass cases – you won’t leave Cocoa Atelier without a smile on your face, or an exquisitely wrapped box in your hand.

A longtime member of the Cocoa Atelier family, we spoke to store manager Sharon McNamara about how the idea for Cocoa Atelier came about, what makes them different to other chocolate shop, new products in the pipeline, and more.

Where did the idea for Cocoa Atelier come from and when did it open?

Cocoa Atelier started in 2010 when we opened our flagship store at 30 Drury Street. We began preparations several months before in collaboration with our supplier Chocolaterie de L’Opera, testing recipes and refining our designs. We were inspired by the speciality chocolate shops that are found on the continent and wanted to bring the concept of the locally produced fresh chocolates to the people of Dublin.

What makes Cocoa Atelier different from other chocolate shops?

We consider ourselves unique in the Irish market in that we make our fresh chocolates in small batches and experiment with a variety of seasonal ingredients, sourced from local suppliers where possible. We also make a large range of unique handmade seasonal products for Easter and Christmas.

From where do you source your cacao?

We work exclusively with couverture from Chocolaterie L’Opera, a family business run by the De Loisy brothers in Provence.

We use a selection of single origins with a unique genetic profile roasted in small batches – the cocoa is sourced directly from several countries including Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

Who is on the Cocoa Atelier productions team?

Production is by a team of four, with Anna Coffey as Head Chocolatier. The team are all from chef backgrounds and are trained by Anna, as she was by our previous Head Chocolatier.

Where do you produce your products?

Our production kitchen, which we refer to as the ‘Chocolate Lab’ (to reflect our scientific approach to all things chocolate!) is based in Dublin 12; from there we deliver fresh produce to our store in the city centre and to our wholesale customers.

What are your most popular products?

Each of our Great Taste Award winners are really popular including the Dark Salted Caramel, Earl Grey and our signature flavour the Chestnut Honey ganache, and of course our Fresh Hot Chocolate which is made from a ganache base and is available for take-away all year round.

Can you tell me about some of your most unusual products?

Our fresh marshmallows have unusual but seasonal flavours – they are made in small batches and are egg free, making them deliciously light and delicate.

Your range includes some unique flavours too, like Orange Balsamic Caramel ganache or Fruity Pear macarons, where do you get inspiration for these?

We are constantly researching trends in chocolate around the world through books, social media and travel. We try to find unusual flavour pairings that also reflect the season and what is available. The Orange Balsamic Caramel came from a conversation about the production team’s love of balsamic vinegar, and we’ve also developed several flavours from suggestions that customers provided.

Can you name some of the other quirky flavours you have dabbled with?

Bay Leaf was one of our recent seasonal flavours – our customers really liked the unexpected flavour of bay leaf with the sweetness of the dark chocolate. We also created a Mulled Wine marshmallow for Christmas which found its way on to many afternoon tea menus across the country.

Cocoa Atelier Painting

Will you create any Valentine’s themed items?

We’re currently testing out a strawberry rose caramel with white chocolate that we think will be very popular this year and we’ll also have our much-loved Salted Caramel hearts back in stock.

Do you notice an increase in male customers in the shop in the run up to Valentine’s Day?

The men of Dublin are actually more organised than you think and are in picking up chocolates for their loved ones several days in advance – February 12th and 13th are the busier Valentines shopping days.

Besides Valentine’s Day, what other times are year are the busiest in store?

Without a doubt, Christmas is our busiest time of the year – our customers love picking up Chocolate gift boxes, macarons, and we do a wide range of special seasonal products like our chocolate baubles, Christmas cards etc.

Are there any new products or flavours in the pipeline?

We’re experimenting with a goat’s milk ganache as it was something we created and tested at Food on the Edge in October last and it received very positive feedback.

We’re also looking to introduce more herb and savoury flavours to our selection.

Do you have ambitions to open another store in the future?

At the moment we are focussing on our store at Drury Street, which is approaching its seventh anniversary but we’re always on the look out for new opportunities to expand and collaborate.

Have noticed a difference in customer preferences since you established the shop?

Our customer’s tastes have really developed since we first started – they’ve seen concepts similar to Cocoa Atelier on their travels and are delighted to find that the same quality is available at home.

I’ve also noticed an increased interest in single-origin dark chocolates and indeed higher cocoa contents – our customers are quite discerning and we strive to meet their expectations.

What trends have you noticed in chocolate and patisserie?

Éclairs have gained huge resurgence over the past number of years with boutiques dedicated to them popping up in London. We’ve kept up with this trend by introducing more unusual flavour like pistachio and raspberry éclairs to our dessert bar.

INTERVIEW BY ERICA BRACKEN

erica-brackenErica grew up with a baker and confectioner for a father, and a mother with an instinct and love for good food. It is little wonder then that, after completing a law degree, she went on to do a Masters in Food Business at UCC. With a consuming passion for all things food, nutrition and wellness, working with TheTaste is a perfect fit for Erica; allowing her to learn and experience every aspect of the food world meeting its characters and influencers along the way.

Erica Bracken  Erica Bracken

 

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