Chocolate is the star of the show among the sweet treats set out by the ladies of Chocola.j.
A shared love of chocolate saw Nelia de Carvalho Smee and Claudia Lucas come up with the idea for Chocola.j, their Northcliff store, which they say is “all about chocolate, pastry and pleasure”. “Chocolaj is a Mayan word that refers to ‘drinking chocolate together’ and we felt it was the perfect name for our store,” says Nelia.
The two chocolate fans originally met eight years ago and reconnected on Facebook two years ago when Nelia was working in the UK in the area of project management and Claudia was doing a pastry course at Capsicum and running a small operation from home. “There are so many chocolate and pastry shops in the UK in comparison with South Africa and we decided to combine our skills and experience to open one here,” explains Nelia.
Nelia returned to South Africa in early 2011 and Chocola.j was launched in September. “We use quality French chocolate in our handmade products and include no artificial ingredients, which makes a huge difference to the end product,” says Claudia. “We also experiment a lot, offering unique products to our customers, such as our ‘Sweety Js’, which are a layer of marshmallow, chocolate cream and nuts covered in chocolate, as well as our cocoa-infused honey, super-moist brownies and chocolate truffles.” “We want to build a smooth-running chocolate and pastry empire,” says Nelia. “There is an edge to what we do and our work is also beautiful.”
The picturesque Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg’s Mountain View is the chosen venue for their table setting, which they feel complements their personalities. The setting is similar to the look and feel of their store as well as their personal tastes. The stack of books at the edge of the wooden table is deliberately placed to illustrate where they find inspiration for new products.
Chocolate is undoubtedly the star at this table. “We wanted a pretty table using elements from our store. We chose furniture
and decor items in whites, wood and glass to enhance the beauty of the chocolate in the products,” says Nelia. The chocolate milk bottles replace traditional glasses and an array of chocolate treats is placed at every corner. From lollipopinspired macaroons in small glasses, to the brownie cake on a silver stand and the delicately designed cupcakes, any guest at this table would be spoilt for choice.
“We both have Portuguese backgrounds so we love to cook and entertain. I also love to be entertained,” says Claudia as they burst into laughter. They have a relaxed style and offer an abundance of food when they do.
Chocola.j, Shop 4, Northcliff Galleries, 167 Beyers Naude, Northcliff. Call 011-782-9050 or visit www.chocolaj.co.za.
NELIA AND CLAUDIA’S ENTERTAINING TIPS:
- Don’t try something for the first time just in case it doesn’t work.
- Prepare ahead as much as possible so that you can spend time with your guests.
- Focus on yourself a little. Leave enough time to freshen up before your guests arrive.
- Cook enough food so that your guests are free to serve as much as they want.
- Buy your dessert to save time.