I love The Chocolate Bar in Rice Village. It’s a choc-o-palooza of chocolate cake, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate-infused coffee and chocolate-covered fruit. But while it does play into all those Willy Wonka fantasies I had growing up, The Chocolate Bar's flavors themselves are pretty traditional.
Wanting to try something new and exciting in the world of chocolate, I Googled "best chocolate in Houston" and found Cacao & Cardamom just a few results down the list. Cacao & Cardamom is a primarily web-based chocolate shop run by 23-year-old chocolatier Annie Rupani. Her chocolates are beautiful, handcrafted bon bons filled with exotic and unique flavors such as Coco Curry and Szechuan Peppercorn.
“The idea just came out of my love for food and flavors and this custom of nontraditional cooking in my house,” says Rupani.
“After I took the LSAT, I was living in Pakistan, which may have influenced my flavors," Rupani explains, "but my family is South Asian so I already had that influence." During her last visit to Pakistan, Rupani flew to Malaysia for 10 days and took chocolatiering courses there. "Mixing types of flavors wasn’t something that they did over there," she says. "They generally eat traditional Malaysian or traditional American food. It wasn’t until I came back to the States that I decided I really wanted to do this.”
Intrigued by the sound of these unusual flavors, I travelled to Revival Market—one of the three locations where Cacao & Cardamom is sold—to get a taste of Rupani’s chocolate genius. I bought a 12-piece box of chocolates for $32. Unfortunately, Revival only had the Southern Comforts flavors, which are the more traditional of Rupani’s chocolates.
Still, I was excited to try these unique treats. The packaging was very pretty: a round, cream-colored box wrapped in a brown ribbon embossed with a C&C logo. Inside were six pairs of bon bons from the collection. They each looked beautiful, bright, and colorful.
I began with a flavor I was fairly sure I would enjoy: the Nutella Banana. It was delicious, with the taste of fresh bananas and the hazelnut flavor of Nutella. Next I had the aptly named Ay Caramba!, a dark chocolate pyramid flavored with chipotle peppers. The spicy treat left my taste buds all tingly.
My favorite flavor in the box was the S’mores. This was surprising, as I traditionally don’t like marshmallows and—by extension—don’t enjoy S’mores. Rupani’s chocolate interpretation of the campfire classic was great, however. First the milk chocolate melts on your tongue, followed by the sweet and creamy flavor of marshmallow before finally getting to the graham cracker crunch.
“There’s something for almost anyone because everyone wants something sweet and chocolate," Rupani says. "Yes, I have a more exotic flavor collection but there’s also the Southern Comfort collection."
“The signature collection, those are really meant for someone who wants to make their pallet experience something different. And the flavors I have you can’t get anywhere else.”
But even her more traditional flavors are unique in a way that makes you crave more, which is exactly why I will be ordering my own box of Signature flavors from Cacao & Cardamom’s online store—which may not be predominately web-based for long. Rupani is currently working to open her own storefront soon.