Few things in life are as decadent or as satisfying as really good chocolate. In Malaysia, mass market brands are readily available and so are a niche selection of premium chocolates. But something in between? Now that’s a tough chocolate to track down.
So in 2016, realising there was a vacuum in the market for quality chocolate at accessible prices, Michael Woo and his wife Lee See Pin started their own brand of chocolate truffles called Cocoraw. “We kind of wanted to bridge that gap,” says Lee, who is the creative force of the operation.
Woo and Lee’s chocolate truffles are made in a style similar to the famed Royce Nama-style chocolates. This means the chocolate does not go through the tempering process (a process of temperature control to give it the required sheen and snap when you break off a piece). Instead, the truffles are made using a deft balance of chocolate and cream to attain a silky-soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture.
Lee is entirely self-taught and experimented constantly until she perfected her recipes. Most of Cocoraw’s chocolate truffles are made using imported commercial-grade Belgian chocolate, with the exception of one truffle variant, which is made in collaboration with local chocolate outfit Seniman Kakao, and makes use of chocolate sourced from Pahang.
“It’s about finding the perfect ratio, and combining them together so you get this melt-in-the-mouth texture. So we’ve been finding the right ratio and also learning how to introduce new flavours into the chocolates itself,” says Lee.
Both Lee and Woo are passionate about infusing local flavours into their chocolates, which is how they came up with flavours like salted gula Melaka and teh tarik. At one point, they even had an Ipoh white coffee variant! But the two say the most important thing to them is that the pervading flavour should be chocolate, with other infusions taking on secondary notes.
“Balance is very important. Basically, you don’t want the other flavours to kill the chocolate,” says Lee.
This process of checks and balances is how the intrepid couple have managed to cross off ingredients that do not work, citing failed examples of infusions like pandan and assam boi that simply did not make the grade.
It is this dedication to quality and getting things right that has earned the brand a growing fan base of chocolate aficionados appreciative of the work that they do.
Now that fan base will no doubt widen, as Lee and Woo have taken their online venture into the real world with a teeny-tiny chocolate kiosk called Cocodash by Cocoraw in the popular Telawi area in Bangsar Baru in Kuala Lumpur. The kiosk sits right outside the Czip Lee stationery store and sells all the brand’s handmade truffles as well as brownies and some chocolate drinks.
Although it was initially meant to be a pop-up store when it started six months ago, Cocodash is now a permanent kiosk with no end date in sight.
“We’ll be here until the market takes a bad turn. Otherwise it’s permanent. It’s probably the only kiosk in Bangsar that faces the street rather than being in a mall. And it’s so tiny but it’s perfectly sized for us, because we’re mostly selling the products there and making drinks doesn’t really require much space,” says Woo.
At Cocodash, you’ll be able to sample and purchase all of Cocoraw’s seven different chocolate truffles, like The Local Kakao which makes use of 70% Pahang cocoa. The chocolate is soft and luscious with deep, bitter undertones and an overall quality of richness, which cascades through each piece.
The Salted Gula Melaka, meanwhile has a caramel like-sweetness that is nuanced and pronounced, while the Teh Tarik boasts quite strong sweet tea flavours that might be a smidgen too saccharine sweet, especially if you’re not a fan of condensed milk.
From the alcoholic chocolate options, the Gin & Limau Nipis is a sumptuous, full-bodied affair with subtle gin nuances guaranteed to knock your socks off, while the Alcoholic Anonymous is a robust, 70% dark chocolate rum-laced offering that proves instantly seductive.
The truffles start at RM19 for a small box with 12 pieces and RM30 for a larger box with 24 pieces, with slight price variances for different flavours. As they are handmade, shelf life is short with the dark chocolates lasting for two weeks and the milk chocolates enduring for three weeks in the refrigerator.
All the Cocoraw chocolates have that highly prized, melt-in-the-mouth quality that Lee was so anxious to attain, so even if you hold them up to other Nama-style chocolates you might have tried in Japan or locally, they more than hold their own.
So given Cocoraw’s success in the taste test and the fact that the brand has a physical kiosk now, you have to wonder if a larger outlet is in the pipeline? After all, it seems the natural way to go.
“The reason we wanted the kiosk is because we want to keep things lean and we’re still validating the greater market. Because apart from our Nama truffles, our goal is to get people to appreciate finer quality chocolates at more accessible prices,” says Woo.
This doesn’t mean they’re ruling out expanding in other ways though (and a cafe could still be in the pipeline some day). According to Lee, they are looking at sourcing more local chocolate from around the country as well as chocolate from the region. In time, they even hope to make their own bean-to-bar chocolate!
“It’s about perception, a lot of Malaysians will think Malaysian chocolate isn’t good. They won’t even give it a chance and try it. But those who try are very happily surprised by the taste. So for us, it’s really about exploring new flavours.
“And making our own chocolate is a long-term goal,” says Lee.