By Tracy Rayson
Belgium expats Wim and Veve Tas chose a career that would provide them with a great measure of joy and pleasure, in other words — happiness. Making and selling chocolate at ChocolaTas (half shop; half 5,000-sq-ft production facility) in Abbotsford has done just that; they’re happy every day. Coincidentally, a substance in chocolate acts as a natural antidepressant and perhaps is one more reason for all their smiles — customers’ too.
Before pursuing his passion with the cacao bean, Wim worked in auto parts where people were often irritable — an environment with little joy he realized. After all, customers were getting their vehicles repaired — an inconvenient and unwelcome expense. “I told Wim that if he wasn’t happy with what he was doing, he needed to find something else,” says Veve. “Something where his heart was; something he loved.”
Wim enrolled in night classes at first and went on to study at Maison Wittamer, Belgium’s most respected chocolate house and exclusive suppliers to Belgian royalty, where he trained for four years to become a master chocolate maker.
Immigrating to Canada in February 2002, the couple was quick to choose Vancouver to open ChocolaTas rather than their initial two stops — first Quebec City, then Montreal. “We thought Quebec or Montreal would be an easy transition because of our French, but the cold weather was a real eye opener,” reveals Veve. “When we stepped off the plane in Vancouver it was sunny and warm and gorgeous; we looked at each other and said: ‘we can learn English!’”
In the beginning, they made and sold chocolates out of their Abbotsford home. The first were traditional milk chocolate caramels. In 2008 they moved the operation to Abbottsford’s commercial hub, followed by a second ChocolaTas on Granville Island; that same year they took over Mink Chocolates.