By Nikki Bayley
Vancouver’s foodie heaven is right in the heart of the city on Granville Island, a hub for all things delicious thanks to the public market, one of the city’s top attractions for visitors and locals alike. A delight for all the senses, walking around the market is guaranteed to get your taste buds working overtime. One of its most popular stalls is ChocolaTas, where you’ll find the seasonally-inspired creations of Belgian Master Chocolate maker, Wim Tas and his wife Veve. Trained at Belgium’s most respected chocolate house, Maison Wittamer, who exclusively supply the Belgian royal family with chocolates, Wim and Veve first came to Vancouver in 2000 and fell in love with Granville Island at first sight.
“From the first time we came to Vancouver to visit and see if it was a possible place to live, I said I wanted a store on the Island,” reminisces Veve. “Granville Island has such beauty and diversity, people come from all around the world to visit and it’s a mecca for quality products. We are honoured to be part of that.” Working in the market, being surrounded by the sights, smells and flavours of each season provides plenty of inspiration for Wim and Veve. “We look through the eyes of chocolate with everything,” she explains. “You see something and wonder how it would work –how can we integrate those unique flavours into a bon bon? Of course, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but you have to keep testing and trying new things.”
One of those new flavour profiles may come as surprise, ChocolaTas has created a hops-infused chocolate using local hops from Abbotsford in the Fraser Valley. “Hops farming is starting again in the Lower Mainland,” enthuses Veve. “In the past there were a lot of hops grown here but it disappeared. Now they are coming back, I saw the first field in March and it was beautiful!”
As the growing seasons shift around the calendar, regular customers have favourite flavours that they look forward to seeing appear –and Wim and Veve look forward to making them. “Right now, I can’t wait for pumpkins, we make a pumpkin-pecan ganache with bourbon finished with cinnamon and I always look forward to making those” confides Veve, “of course, berry season is always wonderful; one of our signature flavours is a raspberry ganache. Then there’s our B.C. blueberries from Chilliwack, hazelnuts from Agassiz – we are surrounded by so many good things!”
Christmas and Easter are special times for chocolatiers and ChocolaTas celebrate the seasons with something rather special, Veve adds, “we make a fresh cream chocolate each December; Wim made these each year for the Belgian royal family and even I have to put an order in because we only make them once a year! At Easter we use plenty of local nuts in our treats, each new season we make something special with the local flavours that you can taste around Granville Island at the Public Market. It’s a very special place to visit.”
151-1689 Johnston St. Granville Island, 1-877-668-8932
UPDATE: In September 2015, ChocolaTas was named Top Artisanal Chocolatier and Most Gifted Chocolatier at the recent International Chocolate Salon in San Francisco! They also took home over 14 awards, with three gold awards; Top Artisanal Chocolatier and Best Bridal Gift Set for their ChocolaTas 4 Piece Wedding Tin with 2 monogrammed bonbons and a Gold Award for their newly designed Elegance Box of Salted Caramel. And the awards don’t stop there; the Green Tea bonbon also garnered 4 different awards in the Best White Chocolate award category. Congratulations, ChocolaTas!