Independent people, places and organisations in Sheffield

Entrepreneurs, Ethical Cuisine

It’s a cocoa wonderland

The Cocoa Lounge

Have you got a sweet tooth? If so, Cocoa Wonderland is a place you will certainly want to visit.

Cocoa, as its owners describe it, is an ‘enchanted chocolate wonderland’.

Kate Shephard and Anne White

On entering the shop, it is difficult to know where to look first. Cocoa is packed full of old fashioned sweets, handmade truffles and exquisitely decorated cakes. All this is nestled amongst antique furniture, kitsch wallpaper and chandeliers. If this isn’t enough to overload your senses, the delicious smell of rich melted chocolate certainly will.

Cocoa Wonderland really does pay homage to the sweet shops of yesteryears. In fact, the only modern aspect of the shop is its young owners. Anne White and Kate Shephard have been running Cocoa since they were twenty-one, and they are now in their seventh year of business.

Where it all began

Cocoa was originally the fantasy of Rachell Burton, who got carried away bidding on ebay and ended up buying a truffle cabinet. It seemed logical to create a chocolate shop to put it to good use. This is exactly what she did.

The Cocoa Manifesto

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY which is why we sell only the best chocolate, handmade in small batches, not mass-produced. We also keep a close relationship with the producers where possible.

(well Cocoa is one herself) If there is one thing we can’t stand it’s massive supermarkets, who eat us small businesses up for breakfast and create a stale warehouse full of cheap products. We love individuality… unusual products that question the way we think about food, made from real food lovers…charming passionate shop owners who love their jobs and know their products…shops that make you feel welcome and are unique to their location.

SHEFFIELD and all its quirks, most fancy chocolate shops are only recognised in London, well Cocoa is proud to come from Sheffield. We want fellow tourists to think of Cocoa as something distinctive to Sheffield and hopefully encourage them to come again.

THE COMMUNITY, well it’s the community that helps keep Cocoa running and so Cocoa loves to give something back with fun, friendly and free creative events like Knit club and Book club. Cocoa also likes to make friends with other Ecclesall road businesses and wishes to befriend all of them one day!

CUSTOMERS people like you and me! Cocoa always values her customers and wants to get to know you better over a cup of tea.

EVERYDAY TEA PARTIES, no excuse needed for getting your best china out. Why keep such pretty cups in storage, we believe we give a new lease of life to the once unloved dusty teacups, so get your pinkies out and let’s have a brew! 

In the beginning of 2006, Rachell decided to sell the business as she didn’t have the time to give it the care and attention she felt it deserved.

Anne and Kate, who had been working at Cocoa during their time at Sheffield Hallam University were devastated at this news.

Rachell suggested they take the business over, but initially neither of the girls took this suggestion seriously.

However, on having a nightmare, in which Cocoa was turned into a fish and chip shop, Kate decided they just had to take over Cocoa. All she had to do was to persuade Anne. This proved to be a very easy task.

Kate recalls;

“There was due to be an open day, where all the fixtures and fittings were to be sold off. That would have been just horrible. Like a person having their insides ripped out.”

So despite friends telling them their plans were ludicrous, Anne and Kate acquired their very own chocolate shop.

“It felt like I’d fallen in love, I couldn’t eat or sleep or stop talking about it. I felt like the luckiest girl alive.”

A lot of hard work

To you and I, this may seem like a dream job, but it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the pair.

Anne said, “In the beginning it wasn’t about the money, it was about making Cocoa work.” They worked seven days a week and paid themselves very little, but it has all been worth it.

“Our first year was spent simply surviving and creating the Cocoa lounge piece by piece, which was first opened for a cup of tea in 2007. Later on we turned our office into the Butterfly Boudoir and started our chocolate tasting evenings and chocolate lock-ins. Then we started our knit club, which went so well we started our book club. By late 2009 we had enough Cocoa girls to open everyday and more importantly it meant Kate and I finally had weekends.”

Committed chocoholics

Anne and Kate are no ordinary shop owners. So dedicated are they to their trade, they spent January 2010 living on a Cocoa plantation in Grenada watching pods turn into chocolate bars.

The girls must be doing something right, as the original owner, Rachell, has decided to open an other Cocoa in Scarborough.


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