Alba Chocolatier brings chocolate-making expertise from Venezuela to the local scene

The homegrown brand sources chocolates from local farmers.

Founder Asmiriam Roa is also an experienced barista and chocolate maker (Photo: Alba Chocolatier)

An experienced barista and chocolate maker, Asmiriam Roa has been working with coffee and chocolate for the last 10 years. Born in Venezuela to a Colombian father, she was exposed to the history and culture of caffeinated goodies from those countries at an early age. “I travelled to Europe many years ago and realised Venezuelan cocoa was really well known and appreciated. That inspired me to become a chocolatier.”

Roa studied culinary arts and was taught the introduction to chocolate-making in college. However, she was hungry for more than just the basics. “I wanted to go one step further. So, I enrolled in classes by two prominent experts in my country, one of whom is María Fernanda. They like to share knowledge and support underserved women by teaching them to make chocolates, as well as entrepreneurs who are keen to learn. I can always reach out to the community of chocolate makers around me to ask for anything,” she says.

Roa made her journey to Malaysia three years ago to work at Colombian coffee company Juan Valdez Café in Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur. Besides serving coffee, she also enjoyed having conversations with the customers. Her stories and experience charmed one of the regulars, who then invited her to partner him in a chocolate-making venture. Alba Chocolatier was established last November, combining Malaysian produce with Roa’s expertise from her culture and heritage.

“I shared my ideas with my partner and he said Malaysia is one of the biggest cocoa producers in the world. So, I began researching more about the market and what could be explored here. During the second Movement Control Order, I was stuck in the country. I took it as a sign that ‘this was meant to be’. During that period, we planned our business and started buying machines and tasted some local cocoa.”


Roa advocates for handcrafted chocolate business while promoting fair wages to help farmers live a better life

Years ago, Roa dreamt of being a chocolatier because she wanted to bring changes in the industry, on issues such as child slavery and low wages. Alba Chocolatier allows her to realise her goal of supporting farmers and chocolate makers in Malaysia. She currently has three assistants and eight suppliers from across the country, including Johor, Pahang, Sabah and Perak.

“I strongly advocate for handcrafted chocolate business because we are promoting fair wages to help farmers live a better life. We are also creating a better environment — the best chocolate cannot be produced using bad cocoa. The main ingredient needs to be planted, harvested and processed thoroughly. We want farmers to be able to do all that.”

Cocoa is sold at around RM8 to RM10 per kilogram, Roa notes. “Depending on the quality, we can pay up to RM25. We are very supportive of the farmers, and we can also make great chocolate with it.”

Based at The Everly Putrajaya hotel, Alba Chocolatier has a private space to work in, giving Roa and her team the freedom to enforce the quality they desire for their products. “We have SOPs (standard operating procedures) to follow the traditional chocolate-making [process] from Venezuela for stages such as sorting, roasting, grounding and refining the beans. We work at our own pace because some processes cannot be rushed.”

As the capacity per batch is 25kg, they make roughly 600 bars per production run and up to three batches per week. Currently, Alba Chocolatier offers a premium line of dark chocolate made using 75% cocoa and 25% sugar. Other handmade treats include crunchy cookies and brownies.

“As a barista, of course I had to create something related to coffee,” she laughs. “So, we also have flavoured chocolate called cappuccino. It is white chocolate infused with brown coffee.”


The milk chocolate hazelnut spread earned a gold medal and a special prize at the International Chocolate Awards

Another product produced by the team is SuperCrema. The milk chocolate hazelnut spread earned a gold medal and a special prize at the International Chocolate Awards under the Asia-Pacific category last month. “It was unexpected but we were really happy, and I believe the recognition says a lot about the quality of our chocolate.”

The award motivates Alba Chocolatier to keep making the finest sweet delicacies. “Customers can certainly expect more products because now that we have achieved a standard certified by experts, it is time to grow our offerings,” says Roa, who is already planning a special edition for Christmas this year.

Although its clientele has expanded to include hotels, companies and embassies, Alba Chocolatier still has a humble presence on social media. “We want to grow organically by sharing our values and beliefs as a brand, so everyone knows our story. When you do that, people get a real connection with you because they know the forces behind the business. If we feel like sharing a story or process, we just do it.”

Choosing name for a company is important to highlight its identity. Roa named her business after her mother Alba, which means dawn in Spanish. “We want to be the ‘dawn’ of fine chocolate-making in Malaysia. There are people who make great chocolate here, but I believe we can do better. I want to share quality standards and the  practices of chocolate-making from my country.”

 Alba Chocolatier’s products, which are embossed with the words Gracias and Terima Kasih, combine the best of both worlds. “We feel thankful that we are able to make chocolate in one of cocoa producing countries and support local farmers, while sharing the culture of my country.”

This article first appeared on Oct 3, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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