Friday, January 16, 2015

Interview with Isabel Brash of Cocobel Chocolates (Trinidad & Tobago)

Who doesn't love chocolate? I had a blast interviewing Isabel, the owner of Cocobel Chocolate (located in Trinidad and Tobago) for The COCO Magazine

Described as hand-crafted, artisan treats, Cocobel Chocolates embody what it means to be a true Trinidadian and by extension, a Caribbean person. Made with 100% local trinitario cacao beans, the chocolates are pure works of art- the kind that forces you to eat with your eyes first before biting into its chocolate coated bit of heaven. This is no surprise, though, as the artist behind these beautiful confections is a trained architect turned chocolatier. So how does one go from designing buildings to creating mouth watering chocolates infused with local fruits and spices like gingerbread spice, rich dark sorrel, ponche de creme, honey passion fruit, cashew coconut or mango pepper? We caught up with Isabel Brash who showed us that chocolate is more than just a sweet treat reserved for holidays and special occasions but as a way of telling a story of culture, tradition, patriotism and learning how to trust your instincts. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business? 
I am a 6th generation Trinidadian, grew up in South Trinidad. At the core I am a designer, I must create – does not matter the medium – it sustains my sanity! I am an architect who fell into chocolate making by the curiosity of “how to” and the need for a new project – for personal fulfillment. It was an innocent approach to a craft in the beginning – an exercise in transformation - and then turned into this wild journey that is Cocobel. We started in 2008 and since then have been trying to tell our stories of taste through Cocobel. We use local fruits and spices and infuse them into the chocolate to create truly Trinbagonian chocolates.
I’m always intrigued to see how someone’s hometown (or adopted hometown) affects their style or influences. How does Trinidad & Tobago shape who you are and what you do?
Every decision I make when it comes to new flavors I keep my culture and my traditions in mind. When I say mine, I mean ours, Trinbagonians. We are unique in Trinidad and Tobago, to have so many pinches of different cultures to make up our sweet pot of callaloo – I try to dig up the collective memory and put it into the chocolate. It is my identity. I must be honest to my craft – it is the best way to design/create, to be honest and let your gut shine through.
It’s not every day that a person goes from being in the architectural field to creating such luscious looking, edible creations. How did you get into making chocolate?
I was curious about the process and needed some creative stimulation away from work. I started researching stuff online and got more and more intrigued. I had a bee in my bonnet – the obsession grew from there. After I got the ball rolling on transforming cocoa bean to chocolate, I dug more into “what do I do with this now?” – I wanted to make “cool things” with it and give it as gifts to my family for Christmas that year. 6 months later, I named my obsession Cocobel and made it official! I still see her as a project with no completion date in sight 

Read the rest of our chit-chat here:

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