With her painstakingly sourced chocolate and beautiful — not to mention delicious — confections, Swiss-born Maya Schoop-Rutten, aka the Maya of Chocolate Maya, has turned her tiny space into the biggest little chocolate shop in town. Her passion, which has taken her to plantations all over the world on the hunt for the most delicious — always ethically produced — chocolate in existence, is impossible to contain: so much so, in fact, that she’s decided to expand.
But Schoop-Rutten’s vision for the Chocolate Lounge — which she’s dubbed the cozy space next door to the original shop — goes well beyond more shelves of chocolate (though that would be fine, too). Beginning in a couple of weeks, she’ll offer chocolate tastings, much in the same way a wine-tasting room does. In fact, dissecting the flavors is every bit as much fun; chocolate is surprisingly nuanced, the notes as subtle — and unmistakable — as those in a glass of wine, and equally affected by factors including variety, terroir, production method, and growing conditions.
“You’ll be able to try different bars from around the world, so you’ll get to really understand the flavors from different countries,” she said. “This is why I go to the plantations: I learn about the flavors from all those different countries. I really want people to understand how it’s done, to learn about the farmers.” Photos from those cacao plantations line all the walls — except for the one that looks into her kitchen, where you can watch her at work, molding chocolates like the magic trick that is the liquid-centered salted caramel truffle.
In addition to the tastings, she plans to serve “delicate and light” treats like chocolate mousse and sorbet. And between now and then, you can stop in for a mug of her famous hot cocoa — those who like it hot ought not to miss the Spicy Sacrifice — the perfect way to warm up on a chilly winter afternoon.
See chocolatemaya.com, call (805) 409-2951, or visit at 15 West Gutierrez Street.