Qudsia Karim fascination with chocolates began on a trip to France and led her to open the artisanal boutique Cocosia in Dubai, writes Stacie Overton Johnson
About 90 per cent of consumers say they regularly eat chocolate. If you’re one of them, find an excuse to stop by one of Dubai’s newest home-grown concepts, Cocosia.
Cocosia, which opened six months ago near the Mall of the Emirates, is the brainchild of the master chocolatier Qudsia Karim. The Pakistani-Canadian developed an intense interest in chocolate while on a trip to France. With her curiosity piqued, she enrolled in a master course at Ecole Chocolat in Vancouver, Canada.
“It was fascinating, intriguing and made me a completely different person,” says Karim. “I wanted to pursue more.”
She went on to study chocolate technology at the Barry Callebaut academy in Chicago, followed by a stint working as an apprentice to the esteemed chocolatier Thierry Mulhaupt in Strasbourg, France. Karim refined her skills at The French Pastry School in Chicago and Valrhona’s L’Ecole du Grand Chocolat in Tain l’Hermitage, France.
“The French ideas, the techniques – you can’t compare anything with them,” says Karim. “People say Belgian chocolates are No 1, but I have a palate taste for French chocolate.”
Karim spent the first part of her life with her husband, raising two children. Her need to stay busy as her children got older is what fuelled her ambition. Her education in chocolate started at age 37. Three years later, she opened Cocosia. She’s there every day, creating new recipes and filling orders as demand from customers grows.
That full schedule is something Karim says she needs. “I’m not very social. I don’t like to waste my time talking about small things like curtains and purses. It is more important to do something productive.”
At Cocosia, no two chocolates are alike. One of Karim’s most popular chocolates is her classic Fleur de Sel – caramel infused with flakes of sea salt. Another favourite is the Yuzu – a chocolate that uses the popular Japanese citrus fruit. Her Yonge St chocolate is a dark truffle infused with orange and organic cayenne pepper.
Several of Karim’s bestsellers are named after places she has visited. The Tain-l’Hermitage is vanilla- coconut layered on 64 per cent dark ganache. The Baden-Baden, inspired by her trips through Germany, is loaded with almonds. The Schwyz pays tribute to the small town in Switzerland and contains raspberry gianduja (sweet chocolate made with nut paste). She pays homage to the UAE with the Desert Safari chocolate – made with camel milk caramel.
Karim creates seasonal collections for all cultures. Her collection for Diwali highlighted traditional Indian ingredients such as anjeer (dried figs), masala chai, ginger and rose milk. Her Eid collection contained dates and marzipan. Her newly designed Christmas collection is based on the North American palate.
The collections make impressive gifts for chocolate-loving friends, but these aren’t the kind of chocolates you eat by the handful. They’re meant to be savoured.
Each chocolate is topped with exquisite details: rose petals from Spain, a single coffee bean, crushed hazelnut pieces or a delicate sliver of almond.
Karim says: “If I get the chance, I could innovate every day. I could make a new chocolate every day. You have to be passionate about what you’re doing.”
Cocosia’s success is sweet satisfaction for Karim, who started chasing her dream at an age when many women might not have believed they had it in them to start anew.
“I feel complete,” says Karim. “I feel happy. It feels like I’ve achieved something in life and I’m doing what I want to do.”
• Cocosia is located in Al Barsha 1 in the Rasis Business Centre behind Mall of the Emirates. A box of 16 chocolates costs Dh110. A box of 32 is Dh225. Delivery is available for orders above Dh250
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