The Chocolate Shop, which now has two locations, on Street 63 and on Street 240, is the perfect destination for a Valentine’s Day treat.
Griet Lorre, general manager of The Chocolate Shop, says the Valentine’s week is her best annually in terms of sales, with many locals ordering chocolates for the special day.
“People need chocolate for a special romantic occasion like Valentine’s Day to share with their loved ones, family and friends,” says Lorre, who adds that “almost 99 per cent” of her clientele are Cambodians, young and old.
“This year we already have more than 400 orders,” she says.
“During Valentine’s Day we need to increase our production capacity by seven times compared to other days of the year,” says Lorre.
In business in Phnom Penh for around a decade now, and originally running out of a small store on Street 240, Lorre says that the new shop on Street 63 in BKK1 has raised the profile of her business, and now her chocolate is renowned in Phnom Penh.
The Chocolate Shop makes the three main varieties of chocolate – white, dark-brown and black. But, according to Lorre, the most popular variety among Cambodians is white chocolate.
“Cambodian people like white chocolate, which has more milk and is not too sweet,” she says.
Lorre was born in Belgium, which is famed in Europe as a producer of chocolate. To make chocolate in Cambodia, she imported professional equipment from Italy, but she says the ingredients and the flavours come from Belgium – with “a few local touches”.
“We use local ingredients, such as Kampot pepper, Mondolkiri honey, Kampong Speu sugar, as well as local nuts,” she says.
In the shop at Street 63, several young Cambodians chat among each other, and order Valentine’s Day chocolate packages.
Sok Ngim, a fourth-year student at Pannasastra University of Cambodia, and an accountant for a local business, says she often comes to the Street 63 branch of The Chocolate Shop, but adds it is a must-visit on Valentine’s Day.
She says she and her friends love the original flavours of The Chocolate Shop’s chocolates.
“This is our favourite place, the tastes are lovely,” she says.
“My family all like chocolate, and I’ve ordered for the entire family for Valentine’s Day,” says Ngim. “We sometimes go abroad but the chocolate we’ve bought there is not like here.”
Meanwhile, Japanese Kojima Shihoko has been working in Cambodia for 18 months, and is also buying chocolate at The Chocolate Shop. Kojima said: “In Japan, chocolate is very popular on Valentine’s Day, and it’s an important part of the special day.
“Here, in Cambodia, The Chocolate Shop is my favourite,” she says.
Sin Sinat has been working at The Chocolate Shop for nine years. She started out as a waitress and working in the kitchen of a restaurant. But she it was her beautiful handwriting that led Lorre to recruit her to personalise chocolate orders.
“It’s both creative and disciplined,” Sinat says of the chocolate business. “We need to learn a lot of technicalities, including temperature standards, both for making and keeping the chocolate in good condition,” she says.
“Sometimes we need to design the chocolate in a new shape according to the clients’ requirements,” says Sinat, who never received a higher education.
“I never dreamed of working in a famous shop like this,” she says.
“I’m lucky that Griet gave me the opportunity to train with two Belgian experts for several years, even though I’m still learning.”
She says her personal favourite is chocolate made with Kampot pepper.
Meanwhile, Srey Mav, another employee, also says she loves her work.
“Many clients just come and buy what we’ve prepared for Valentine’s Day, but some come with special orders, and want their chocolate decorated in a special way,” she says.
“That’s where our professional and packaging skills come in,” she added.
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