International experts and professionals in the chocolate industry have just told Vata Edari, owner and principal chocolatier of CocoVaa Chocolatier on Madison’s north side, that her chocolates are some of the best they’ve tasted.
Edari won 17 total awards in the recently announced Academy of Chocolate Awards including two gold, eight silver and seven bronze awards.
“This is cool. I’m excited,” Edari tells Madison365. “This year, they had 1,200 submissions – a record high number of entries from over 45 different countries all over the world. These are some really established companies competing in this that I’ve always looked up to and thought, “I want to be like them someday.'”
Edari is now indeed just like them, according to The Academy of Chocolate, which was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures.
“For me, to be so young as a business and as a chocolatier … to win these awards is very exciting,” Edari says. “It’s humbling. It’s inspiring. It makes me want to keep going.”
Edari says that she had been following the competition on social media.
“Every now and then on Twitter I would watch the judges Tweet about stuff and I would see pictures of my chocolates on a plate with all these other fabulous chocolates,” Edair says. “It’s blind tasting. They didn’t know who they were tasting. But it was so cool to see my piece of chocolate being tasted in England by somebody I don’t even know.”
“Since then, I’ve been waiting on pins and needles,” she adds. “Am I going to win anything? I would have been happy with a bronze award for one thing. I won an award for everything!”
Edari earned a gold in the packaging category for her chocolate bonbons and another gold for her hazelnut macchiato chocolate in the filled white chocolate category. Here’s a full list of the awards.
“Submitting that many things to a competition is really hard because you have to do that while you’re doing your normal production and this was right around Valentine’s Day,” Edari recalls. “So it was tough getting everything together, making sure everything was perfect and then shipping it to England and making sure that they were packed properly and on time … because you will be disqualified if they are a day late.
“I entered quite a few things into this. It was kind of expensive. I probably invested like $2,000 in this competition,” she adds. “It’s an investment. I think it’s important to do it because I think that competitiveness keeps the innovation alive.”
Edari was one of the few African-Americans entered in this international competition. Her 17 victories, she hopes, will give inspiration to other young people of color to get into the business.
“People of color are not well represented in this industry,” Edari says. “There are not a lot of African Americans or people of African descent who have been exposed to fine chocolate and it’s a shame because it comes from the third world. It can only grow within 10 to 20 degrees of the equator. So it’s where our ancestors are from and yet we don’t have much of a presence in the industry.
“I’m hoping that will change,” she adds. “One of the things I’d like to do with my new space is to do more chocolate education and to provide some training for some kids who otherwise might not have access to that. Middle school kids or high school kids who might be interested in going into the chocolate arts who wouldn’t otherwise have any exposure to this world.”
In July, Edari will be traveling to England to gather up her honors.
“There’s a big awards ceremony in London where they will announce the biggest overall winners like ‘International Rising Star’ and ‘Best Newcomer’ … things like that,” Edari says. “Who knows? I might be getting even more awards.”
CocoVaa Chocolatier is a small, retail shop located on Sherman Terrace on Madison’s north side that needs to find a new space by September. “As of right now, I don’t have certainty of where I’m going to be and how I’m going to afford a build out,” Edari says. “But I’m looking at some options. It’s a little stressful right now.”
Getting the news of the international awards has reinvigorated Edari’s drive to keep going with her business knowing that something will work out in the end for her new chocolate-making space.
“My business is growing. I have more partnerships locally. The local Madison community has been great for me and has supported me in a way that has been able to keep me going and sustain me,” she says. “It’s growing and growing and growing and it’s fun to watch. All the hard work and long hours are starting to pay off.
“Getting the word of these international awards really keeps me going,” Edari adds. “Sometimes when I feel like this is all too much and I can’t take it anymore – this is tiring; this is expensive – these types of recognitions keep you going and keep you excited about what you do.”