Chocolate lovers of Greenwich, give a warm welcome to The Little Chocolate Company, a gourmet confectionery that opened in Byram on Feb. 2.
This "chocolate boutique" offers offers a wide variety of chocolate and other treats including biscottini (bite-size biscotti) in an assortment of flavors, locally roasted coffees, ready to drink or for purchase by the bean, and hot chocolate.
Owner Martine Coscia is a native of Belgium, the world-renowned home of fine chocolate. She made the leap from corporate to chocolate after the birth of her third child. "I had a full-time job in IT, but I am very entrepreneurial and decided to pursue my hobby of making chocolate confections," she says.
In the beginning
Coscia attended chocolate courses at the famed Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y., and took other specialty courses with experienced chocolatiers, which enabled her to hone her skills.
The Glenville resident then began frequenting Connecticut-grown farmer's markets and Junior League holiday markets to sell her items. "I also began making favors for weddings, christenings and different occasions. I still offer those services here at the shop," she says.
She began a mail-order business two years ago through her Web site, www.thelittlechocolatecompany.com, but Coscia found that her clientele also wanted to come to an establishment with regular business hours. The idea for the retail store was born.
"I already had a commercial kitchen, where we make all of our items, so we built the infrastructure for the store around that," she says, adding, "I will say that the neighborhood residents are thrilled that we're here and have been very supportive."
Most of The Little Chocolate Company's customers are buying dark chocolate at the moment, according to Coscia, due to its highly touted health benefits, one of which is its antioxidants. "People have developed a taste for it," she says. Employee Julia Tonkin agrees, saying, "I think it feels better for people to eat it because it has less sugar, and less guilt." (The higher the percentage of cocoa mass in chocolate, the less sugar it has.)
Cocoa beans from around the world
The store is unique in that it offers chocolate made from cocoa beans originating in different countries. "One of my passions is how chocolate can taste different depending on where it's from," Coscia says. The shop carries specialty chocolate truffles that may be made from cocoa beans from Mexico, Madagascar, Ecuador or Ghana.
Each group of truffles ranges in taste from sweet to tart to bitter depending on the bean's country of origin. These truffles are known as single-origin chocolate, as they each originate from one bean from a particular country, as opposed to a blend of beans. Coscia adds that chocolate has different notes to it, much like wine.
Customers can also find items that are fun variations on the chocolate theme, such as Critters. These are dried fruits and nuts enveloped in chocolate.
Coscia sees bright prospects for The Little Chocolate Company's future. "I would like to bring back the nostalgia associated with chocolate," she says. "It's great to have people stop by to have a sweet, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate."
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The Little Chocolate Company is located at 99 Mill Street. Store hours are: Tuesday -- Thursday, 9:30 a.m. -- 4:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. -- 8 p.m.; Sunday and Monday - closed. To order, call 203-531-6190 or visit www.thelittlechocolatecompany.com.