Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CocoaBella: A Chocolate Love Story

Don't you just love those stories about people who come to a crossroads in life and find true fulfillment? Stories with the ultimate sweet ending. This is one of those stories.

Michael Freeman was a passionate chocolate lover who had what might have seemed like the perfect job, he was in charge of buying food for the department store chain DFS (or Duty Free Shopping as you might know it from airports all around the world). But as Freeman travelled the world on business, he discovered most European cities had something we didn't, little chocolate shops on almost every corner.

And so he began his quest to find the best chocolate in the world and sell it under one roof. He began asking his contacts "who's making the best chocolate?" and the answers became the basis for the store CocoaBella. As Freeman says, finding the right chocolate to sell took "one year of intense preparation but a lifetime of loving it".

The CocoaBella shop though only a open a couple of months, feels like it has been on Union street for ages. The store has an old world charm and the helpful staff make sure shopping there is a welcoming and friendly experience. CocoaBella carries small artisan chocolates from Europe and the United States, some that you may have heard of, such as Jubilee Chocolates the brand that made the cover of Gourmet two years ago and was just recently rated best-tasting chocolate by Consumer Reports. They also carry a tiny local San Francisco brand, Charles Chocolate, that Freeman discovered when the chocolate-maker brought samples of his chocolate to the store.

So what other kinds of chocolates can you find at CocoaBella? Top sellers include an amazingly crispy Italian cocoa almond, an exotic French milk chocolate with a jasmine ganache and an American tangerine ancho chili chocolate. In addition to individual confections you can find cocoa, exquisite chocolate bars, chocolate tasting kits, bulk chocolate for baking and even books on chocolate. The store also features a beverage bar so you can take a break from shopping and enjoy a cup of hot chocolate. While prices for artisan chocolate may be high, the average cost per piece of chocolate is only about a dollar. Whether your budget allows you to buy a box or just a piece or two, you are bound to find something to love at CocoaBella.

2102 Union St @ Webster
San Francisco