As featured in Bay Area Bites, February 4, 2009
One look at Socola Chocolatier’s whimsical mascot, a flying white alpaca named Harriet, and you just know that this won’t be your typical gourmet chocolate. No, Socola Chocolatier is anything but typical. The promising, Oakland-based enterprise is young, exciting, and full of modern day sass. “Delicately Daring” is quite the perfect motto sister entrepreneurs Wendy and Susan Lieu have chosen for their business.
This Valentine’s Day, when the market crowds over with cliché tokens of love, surprise your (guy, girl, self) with something witty, something sexy, something Socola.
Socola Chocolatier’s Valentine’s Day offering is an assorted box of 12 chocolates ($25) featuring playful flavors like:
- Cupid’s Coffee Fix: because all that love stuff can wear a cherub out — sultry Vietnamese espresso ganache with rich condensed milk, topped with French chicory grounds
- Chambord Shimmie: a pretty little number — dark chocolate ganache with a hint of raspberry liqueur, blushed ready to shine in her pink glimmer
- Give It To Me Guava: unapologetically bold — dark chocolate ganache kissed with a tender guava reduction
- Matchmaker Matcha: a sweet match made in heaven — creamy white chocolate truffles infused with green tea matcha, subtly seductive.
If these inspired love potions aren’t reason enough to shed your jaded anti-cupidism, Socola’s story will certainly warm your heart.
Chief Chocolatier Wendy Lieu is a graduate of UC Davis with a degree in Managerial Economics. A self-taught chocolatier, she juggled her management consulting job with pastry school to gain additional expertise last year.
Sister Susan is a Harvard alum whose passion for activism and social justice are deeply woven into her business plans for how Socola Chocolatier can play its part in improving social capital and engage the community it brings pleasure to.
Susan and I met up at a local coffee shop in SoMa, and as she told me about how Socola (which means “chocolate” in Vietnamese) was born, the story became much more than just about chocolate. She leaned in and her eyes glowed with conviction. She said, “It is in our blood to start something. Our parents were boat people and fled Vietnam in ’81. They came here and they were entrepreneurs. Our parents opened nail salons, a gardening service, and worked seven days a week for nearly 30 years. Wendy and I started Socola because we too wanted to create.”
Apparently sweetness is in their blood too. The girls’ grandfather had 11 children, and his family lived in the same house as his brother who had 12 children. He fed his family by making pastries and sweets that his wife sold every day at the market.
The inspiration for many of Socola’s flavors come from the wandering travels of the sisters. For example, Give it to Me Guava was inspired from the time Susan spent in Baracoa, Cuba as a humanitarian aid worker. Wendy visited her while she was abroad and every morning the sisters would have guava jelly on toast as the morning sun warmed their faces. Susan also recently returned from a year-long stint in Vietnam developing sustainable cocoa production practices with local farmers in the Mekong Delta where her family used to call home.
Socola’s chocolates are beautiful, sensual, and they make you feel good. The Socola Sisters are living the dream and pushing forward in their quest to create. Memories, experiences, and a desire to keep seeking are intertwined in the flavors of their labor of love.
Socola Chocolatier is Femininity, Strength, and Spirit. Delicately daring? Yes, I think so.
Chocolates can also be purchased at:
- Alameda Natural Grocery Store 1650 Park St. #L Alameda, Ca
- Daily Delectables 3249 Grand Ave. Oakland, Ca
- (Whole Foods in early March)