A Golden Ticket to a Vegan Chocolate Factory
Sinful, decadent, addictive. Those are just some of the words that come to mind when people think of chocolate. But vegan? Probably not.
Pamela Elizabeth, the incredible businesswoman behind successful ventures such as Blossom, Blossom du Jour, and Urban Vegan Kitchen, just launched yet another ambitious new shop this past Valentine's Day, Cocoa V — a luxury, artisanal chocolate shop meant to cater to the sweet tooth in all of us, vegan or non-vegan. We were fortunate enough to be invited to check out this newly-opened shop, which felt like getting the ultimate prize — a golden ticket to Pamela Elizabeth's Chocolate Factory.
The shop is located on one of the busiest blocks in the Chelsea neighborhood, close to the High Line and is within walking distance of two of Elizabeth's Blossom establishments, making it one of the most veganized blocks in Manhattan. The store prides itself in hand-making their dairy-free confections on-site, in their "small but productive" kitchen, using age-old, traditional Belgian-inspired techniques. The only difference is, (yep, you guessed it) it's all vegan. Everything from their bon bons to their bars, from their brittle and their barks, to their baked goods and their beverages, each item on the menu is conceived and prepared without the use of animal products, including the all-too-common cow's milk, or any such derivative (like whey or casein).
Chocolate has a way of bringing back childhood memories when we eat it, which is partly the reason why Elizabeth decided to open Cocoa V. It's that mix of pleasure and nostalgia that reminds people of the memories they had when they were younger and it's one of the reasons that people keep going back and eating chocolate, at least for me. Growing up, I've always had a soft spot for Twix and KitKat bars, one for their gooey caramel center inside a crumbly chocolate biscuit, and the other, for their snappy (but catchy) commercials. You can imagine my excitement when I found out that my childhood favorites have been recreated, improved, and of course, most importantly, veganized. (Picture Augustus Gloop eating a Wonka bar, but a little less crazed – that was basically me.)
While the shop is small, it certainly has a lot to offer. Elizabeth, an ethical vegan herself, wanted to build something that answers the question: can a vegan dessert be just as good, if not better, than an ordinary one made with dairy? With the layered flavors, the inviting textures and the incredible artistry in each piece, she has managed to create chocolates that everyone can enjoy, including non-vegans. It's part of her quest to make vegan food more accessible and debunk myths that vegan food, especially sweets and desserts, lack flavor and taste. Having sampled most of their store's offering (we were literally kids in a candy store), we can honestly say that she has accomplished just that.
While we can't speak for Pamela, and whether she has the same eccentricities as Willy Wonka, we can, however, talk about the incredible assortment that her shop carries. Some of the standouts for us include the bon bons, which in our opinion, you can't go wrong with any in their selection. But if we had to choose, below are our top four:
Another absolute must-try is the store's "Yes Please" bar, which is basically the chocolate bar to end all other chocolate bars. I've never seen a KitKat bar look this beautiful in my life.
If you're in the mood for something more classic, the store also offers a selection of baked goods like the ones below:
If you want something on the go, or maybe a little treat for that special someone, Cocoa V also has gift boxes and easy takeaway packaged sweets. For that loved one who's a little too far away, the store also offers nationwide shipping.
Being ethical vegans ourselves, we would be remiss if we didn't talk about the nature of the cacao and the subject that's come up in recent years regarding the conditions in which that cacao was produced and harvested. Some people might not know this but the dark side of chocolate extends far beyond just the taste and type of chocolate.
In recent years, more and more companies have championed the concept of Fair Trade certification on their products, mainly because of the rampant use of child labor and slavery in the chocolate industry. While the team at Cocoa V assured us that their cacao is ethically produced (they are currently in the process of being Fair Trade certified), there are still companies out there, both vegan and non-vegan, who source their cacao from places known to have exploited their workforce. For more on this issue, you can read the article here.
In the end, what Cocoa V lacks in bells and whistles, it more than makes up for it with substantial flavor and remarkable artistry, all with the use of cruelty-free ingredients. They may not have Wonka's chocolate river or the infamous Oompa Loompas in their humble factory, but Cocoa V offers something more. One bite of their chocolate and we guarantee you - you'll be reliving the best moments of your childhood. So if anybody asks if you want seconds, all you have to say is a gleeful, "Yes, Please!"
Have you been to Cocoa V? What was your experience like? Tell us in the comments section below!