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There’s a lot more to chocolate than you probably know. Annie Rupani, owner of Cacao & Cardamom, is an expert on the topic. In her luxury chocolate shop she crafts chocolate to the highest standard with all-natural ingredients and spices. Cacao & Cardamom uses ‘new ideas and techniques to open an infinite world of possibility and change the way you see chocolate.’ We spoke to Rupani about sharing her passion with the people of Houston.
What is the most unusual request you’ve had?
To create a chocolate swan for a customer whose daughter was performing in the play The Ugly Duckling.
My ultimate goal is to spread the love of chocolate throughout the United States and beyond. I truly believe the aesthetics and flavors of my confections are unique internationally, and I have the determination to create a chocolate brand name that is recognizable on a much larger scale. I would like to raise the standard of chocolate, and create a line of chocolate bars and chocolate spread that is accessible through the mainstream market. Unfortunately, most of what exists now in the market is mass-produced with low quality ingredients. As I grow, I’m determined to keep the standards of all natural ingredients, no added sugar, fresh fruit purees, and the best French chocolate couverture. I ultimately want to create a commonplace for flavors like Cardamom Rosewater and Chinese Five Spice praline, so we can open people’s minds through their palates.
What has been your biggest obstacle to success?
It seems like the biggest challenge so far is the general lack of knowledge about cacao or fine chocolate. There are a number of people every day who don’t really know what they’re getting themselves into when they walk into the shop, because they’ve never experienced a place that is solely about chocolate in many different forms and from more than 17 different countries. We’re trying to change the common perceptions around chocolate. When someone comes in and proclaims they don’t like chocolate, it becomes my goal to find them something they would like. It’s almost like wine tasting, and in reality, chocolate actually has more flavor notes than the world of wine. I was initially very impatient and frustrated that very few people knew what cardamom or a chocolate bon-bon was, but I began to take it as an opportunity for teaching and conversation.
I find that most of my customers are very receptive to learning, and they tend to purchase more with increased knowledge of our products. It’s also a great way to create a lasting relationship with the customer. I’ve created a ‘Spice Bar,’ which is a counter with ten different spices to smell and learn about, so that people have an opportunity to experience the spices before deciding if they would like to taste it infused in a chocolate. I also have cacao pods and canvases of the chocolate bean-to-bar process to show customers through pictures how the cacao fruit bears a seed that in turn becomes the chocolate. I think this challenge will continue with new customers that trickle in, but it will be my pleasure to share my love of chocolate with them.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
The second I wake up — first check the time and then check email.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Customers asking for Swiss or Belgium Chocolate – Cacao doesn’t come from those countries, it’s only processed there, and there is way better chocolate being produced by other countries now.
How would you describe your business in 80 characters?
We use new ideas and techniques to open an infinite world of possibility and change the way you see chocolate.
Apple or Android?
Picasso or Matisse?
Coffee or tea?
Love or friendship?
Train or plane?
Chocolate or Vanilla?