Bowen Island, BC – Follow Me Foodie to Bowen Island & Cocoa West Chocolatier

Follow Me Foodie to Bowen Island & Cocoa West Chocolatier

It was my chocolate escape to Bowen Island, BC. I know, I’m jealous of myself! It’s not often that I want to vacation in or around Vancouver, which is a shame because there’s so much to explore, see, and experience. Being surrounded by beautiful mountains, water, nature and scenery, is something I take for granted on a daily basis. But things were about to change… and I was easily swayed by the sweet calling of chocolate. I can’t deny my sweet tooth.

My quick getaway to Bowen Island was arranged by Vancouver, Coast & Mountains British Columbia (VCMBC), and the invitation to stay at the Cocoa West Chocolatier‘s one and only chocolate suite accommodation on Bowen Island was an easy draw. I’ve never heard of this “bed and chocolate” accommodation before and it was one I was ecstatic to experience!

I’ve actually never been to Bowen Island and the assumption of it being so far away created a mental block from ever having any desire to visit it. Little did I know, it was only a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown, Vancouver. Well hey, that isn’t so bad! So with the help of BC Ferries I was off to my chocolate escape!

Cocoa West Chocolatier Cafe was a 5 minute drive from the ferry dock and I would recommend taking a car because it’s not a walkable trail or distance. For me, it would be probably impossible, and I’d need to buy a pair of runners first and learn how to pack light. I’m pretty sure there’s no taxi service on Bowen Island, however pick up arrangements with Cocoa West Chocolatier is something I’d inquire about if you need.

I approached the small family owned chocolate shop, Cocoa West Chocolatier Cafe, and was greeted by the friendly husband and wife owners Carlos and Maitre Chocolatier Joanne Mogridge. The chocolate boutique and cafe opened in 2002 and the chocolate suite was an idea they introduced in 2007.

It’s the only chocolate suite on Bowen Island and it was just around the corner from the cafe. Thank goodness there was no secret hallway connecting the cafe and the suite, because I could have possibly been found passed out on the chocolate making table the next morning from an overindulgence of chocolates.

It was certainly off to a good start with a lovely box of Cocoa West assorted chocolates which await for your arrival. This comes standard for all guests. With a chocolate coloured theme of rich and light brown shades, it kind of made me tempted to eat the furniture. If this was the house of Willy Wonka, it probably would have been possible too!

However the in room movies and entertainment provided were a bit more sophisticated than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and watching Chocolat in the Chocolate Suite while eating the finest chocolate is something I couldn’t leave without doing.

Being that I’m not so much of an outdoor girl, Bowen Island was a different experience for me. Cocoa West Chocolatier, the Chocolate Suite, and a couple restaurants were my main attraction. There are lots of beautiful hikes, scenery, kayaking and outdoor activities, but calling it in and indulging in chocolate with Johnny Depp was more suitable for my tastes, figuratively and literally.

Cocoa West Chocolatier’s Chocolate Suite is a quick and easy romantic getaway from the city. The room is quaint with chocolate themed books and romantic movies, and the bedside chocolate was also a cute initiative. The experience continues the next morning with a complimentary hot chocolate or coffee and biscotti or cookie. It can be enjoyed at the cafe or arranged to be delivered to your room.

A bedside Milk Bar (solid Belgian milk chocolate in festive foil) is placed on your night table.

I can’t deny that the foodie in me was hoping that there would be a chocolate making class or some kind of chocolate activity to enhance the chocolate experience. That just would have really made it a chocolate escape and ideal for chocoholics and food enthusiasts. I’m crossing my fingers for it to happen and hope that some day it does, because I think it would make an unbelievable local and tourist attraction.

There’s no doubt you’ll get your daily dose of chocolate during your stay, but even if you don’t stay in the Chocolate Suite, I would still suggest trying Cocoa West Chocolatier for their exquisite hand made organic chocolates. For more information, rates and availability for the Chocolate Suite at Cocoa West Chocolatier see here.

Restaurant: Cocoa West Chocolatier
Cuisine: Chocolates/Desserts/Gelato/Coffee/Organic
Last visited: August 2-3, 2011
Location: Bowen Island, BC
Address: 581c Artisan Lane
Bowen Island
Price Range: $10 or less

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 3
Overall: n/a
Additional comments:

  • Husband and wife operation
  • Small cafe
  • Handmade chocolates
  • Organic, all natural
  • Artisan chocolates
  • Made in small batches
  • Fresh, high quality ingredients
  • Creative flavours
  • No preservatives
  • Gluten free
  • Dairy free options
  • Nut free options
  • Local ingredients where possible
  • Limited indoor/outdoor seating
  • Online ordering
  • Chocolate suite available

**Recommendations: Eden’s Harvest, Unbelievably Good Egg, First Place Pie, Himalayan Sea Salt Caramel, Cinnamon, Dulche de Leche, Bombay Truffle, Strawberry Black Pepper, Cranberry Almond Biscotti

Cocoa West Chocolatier specializes in one thing, and that’s chocolate. They offer a small selection of gelato from Mario’s Gelati and a few home made biscotti and cookies, but the chocolate is where the magic and passion lies.

The cafe is very small with a cottage like ambiance, however the chocolate speaks higher than the setting. I’d say it’s the finest food establishment along with fine dining restaurant Blue Eyed Mary’s on Bowen Island. It is a local favourite and although I only tried 3 of the 10 restaurants on Bowen Island, Cocoa West Chocolatier was easily my top pick.

Maitre Chocolatier and owner Joanne Mogridge trained under Maitre Chocolatier Greg Hook from Chocolate Arts in Vancouver before opening her own chocolate shop in 2002. Using raw chocolate produced in France by Cacao Barry, the chocolate is not single origin chocolate, but a blend. This isn’t a bad thing as blends often incorporate the best qualities from a variety of cocoa beans.

Joanne makes her chocolate in small batches with 100% certified organic and all natural ingredients. Therefore these chocolates expire within 10 days due to the fresh ingredients, although I’m sure they won’t even see the third day once you get your hands on a box. Some of the chocolates may contain a little alcohol to act as a natural preservative and those will last 18 days, and her dairy free chocolates will last 3 months.

Just like any chef, chocolatiers have their own unique style, and the art of chocolate making extends further than starting with good quality cocoa. She uses local organic fruits, organic herbs from her garden, home made fruit purees, and freshly ground spices to create these world class chocolates. Her style is very subtle in flavour, with a focus on the quality of the chocolate, so most of them are non-offensive and easily accepted by any age and palate.

I found them a notch less sweet and more simple than Maitre Chocolatier Thomas Haas’ chocolates. They were less intense with the flavourings of Thomas Haas, Xoxolat, and Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France chocolates, and it just depends on what you like. I liked that they were less sweet, but I do prefer them a bit stronger, but nonetheless these were not difficult to appreciate and devour.

From what I tried she seemed to use infusion as a technique rather than using the ingredients as a whole or as is. Everything was really incorporated and mild so there were no obvious fruit gelées or intense spices. At times it was hard to figure out what it was unless I knew.

The inside of a Himalayan Sea Salt Caramel

They’re clean in presentation and offered in simple solid or double layered chocolates. The double layered chocolate truffles I’d say are her signature and the creamy rich fillings, especially her caramels, are noticeably different from other chocolatiers. Her truffles are definitely some of the best I’ve had and it’s no doubt due to the freshness of the ingredients. The texture and flavour of the soft velvety creamy centres were perfect. Just look at the picture!

Photo above: The Unbelievably Good Egg (soft caramel with chocolate centre rolled in toasted organic almonds) is their signature and #1 best selling chocolate.

The chocolate ranges from simple to artisan, with creative West Coast flavours and twists like like Bombay Truffle with Chai and Strawberry Black Pepper. Personally I gravitated to more of the unique sounding chocolates, and overall I found these chocolates to be the most memorable part of my Bowen Island dining adventures.

Price List

Organic chocolates (selected) $1.70 each, Small box 7 pc $12, Med box 14 pc $24, Large Box 28 pc $44

I won’t deny that these chocolates are pricey, but it comes with the quality and labour. I was in the company of several locals who would tell me it was their favourite place on the island besides their own business, and that was without me asking or knowing my reason for being there.

If you just care to try the chocolate without making the trip to Bowen Island, you can order them online (here) for the same price, but they will come pre-selected with your choice of mostly dark, mostly milk, or assorted milk and dark chocolates.

On the table:

**Himalayan Sea Salt Caramel6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • It was the first one I started with, and I almost fainted.
  • It was a soft chocolate shell and then out oozed this thick and creamy caramel filling that was buttery, not greasy, not sticky, chewy, or overly sweet.
  • It would make non-caramel lovers fall in love with caramel. I’m not huge on caramel and I wanted to marry it after this.
  • The crunch of sea salt on top just enhanced the caramel flavour and the caramel filling was almost like a pudding. See the filling in the image above.
  • It’s one of the best chocolate caramel truffles I’ve had to date.

Left to right: Bombay Truffle, Cinnamon, Strawberry Black Pepper, Signature Truffle, Perfect Marriage, Shell

**Bombay Truffle4/6 (Very good)

  • Chai & black tea-infused milk chocolate.
  • It’s very aromatic in the beginning with some cardamom and cinnamon or clove flavour. It’s not sharp in spices, but very rounded out and subtle.
  • It has a creamy rich centre and the tea flavour is quite light and the bitterness comes from the chocolate and not the leaves like it should be.
  • My favourite Indian inspired chocolate is still Xoxolat’s Cardamom Creme Brulee Chocolate.

**Cinnamon5/6 (Excellent)

  • Chocolate & cinnamon liqueur, such a lovely couple!
  • I like cinnamon, but I don’t love it, and this was one of my favourites.
  • The cinnamon is very light, freshly ground and dusted on top.
  • I couldn’t taste the cinnamon liqueur and the whole thing just melts in your mouth with a gush of cinnamon infused caramel in the centre.
  • It’s aromatic and not spicy, but warm on the tongue at the end. It was amazing.

**Strawberry Black Pepper4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent))

  • Strawberry puree spiked with cracked black pepper.
  • It was creamy and fruity and the flavour was interesting and hard to pinpoint if I didn’t know what it was.
  • It’s not spicy and I couldn’t taste the texture of strawberry or crackled black pepper, but I got the aromatics of them.
  • If you don’t like fruit filled chocolate, you would likely still like this because the fruit puree was lightly infused into a cream and you could hardly tell it was there.
  • It wasn’t that sweet or tart, and the black pepper heat came at the end, but the flavour was not as obvious and even kids would like it.
  • As good as it was, I did want the texture of the ingredients.

Signature Truffle3/6 (Good)

  • Our signature hot chocolate in a single decadent bite.
  • It was a bittersweet soft ganache and I could taste the subtle hint of ginger or nutmeg and it was a bit bitter.
  • It was a bit thin and tender and not as clean in presentation, but it’s the signature so I was curious.

Perfect Marriage3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Blueberries, cranberries, rice crisps, almonds & hazelnuts in blissful harmony.
  • This one was a bit harder and nutty without the creamy centre. I thought I would like this more.
  • It was more like a nougat with a bittersweet chocolate shell and bits of dried blueberries and cranberries.
  • It was more tart than fruity especially since the fruits were dried, and I tasted more cranberry than blueberry.
  • I couldn’t really get that nuttiness or rice crispies and it wasn’t that chunky or as textured as the description suggested.

Shell – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Rice crisps in dark chocolate in a mottled shell.
  • I’m a fan of crispy rice in chocolate, and this was more chocolate focused.
  • It was harder than expected and I thought it would be more delicate and crispy.
  • It was reminiscent of a Crunch bar, but much thicker, harder and crunchier, like baking chocolate, and I think I would have liked it a bit thinner.

Left to right: First Place Pie, Eden’s Harvest, Unbelievably Good Egg, Lemon Fresh, Dulche De Leche, 70% Dark Solid, Heaven & Earth, Bowenberry & Espresso Bar

Lemon Fresh4/6 (Very good)

  • White chocolate ganache infused with lemon and hint of thyme.
  • For white chocolate it wasn’t too sweet and the centre is filled with a white chocolate ganache, but it’s only a lemon scent and not actually citrusy.
  • It has a touch of alcohol, but it’s not one I could taste at all.
  • I would haven’t minded a stronger lemon tang and some zest.
  • I did get the wonderful aromatics of the lemony thyme in the beginning although it was quite subtle and only noticeable if you looked for it.
  • If you didn’t know the flavours, it would likely take you forever to pinpoint what it was, but that “je ne sais quoi” almost made it more addicting.

**Dulche de Leche5/6 (Excellent)

  • Sweet liquid caramelized cream. Single bite only!
  • This must be another favourite. I usually find dulche de leche too sweet and I wasn’t expecting to like this one as much as I did.
  • It was ultra creamy and rich with caramel and it was sweet, but not hurt your teeth sweet.
  • There was a bittersweet contrast with the dulche de leche and it wasn’t as sweet as most dulche de leches are.

70% Dark Solid5/6 (Excellent)

  • For the chocolate afficionado – the darker the better.
  • This is actually my “chocolate test”. It’s the purest, simplest form of minimally altered cocoa and it represents the base of all the other chocolates.
  • For me, the darker the better for sure.
  • It was hard, dark, rich, bold, deep and earthy and the sweetness never really kicked in.
  • It coats your mouth with flavour and fruity end notes and it was excellent quality of bittersweet chocolate.

Heaven on Earth4/6 (Very good)

  • Raspberry dark ganache layered with vanilla dark chocolate.
  • It had a mild raspberry flavour, but lots of real vanilla bean flavour and I could see the seeds.
  • It had a creamy centre and I’m usually not big on raspberry and chocolate, but again this was subtle, but there.

Bowenberry3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Local blackberry puree in a sugar-topped dark shell.
  • It was a bit tart initially from the berries and it had a creamy ganache centre and a bold bittersweet accent.
  • There were no seeds and it was an infusion of berries and the sugar crystal topping gave it some textural contrast.

Espresso Bar4/6 (Very good)

  • Crushed organic espresso beans in semi-sweet dark chocolate.
  • It was crunchy with good quality crunchy chopped espresso beans that were freshly toasted.
  • There was enough sweetness to balance out the bitterness and the espresso was quite strong and bold.

Top row: Dulce De Leche, Lemon Fresh, Heaven on Earth
Bottom row: EmpowerMint, Domino, Starfish, Bombay Truffle

**Dulche de Leche5/6 (Excellent)

  • Sweet liquid caramelized cream. Single bite only!
  • Described above.

Lemon Fresh4/6 (Very good)

  • White chocolate ganache infused with lemon and hint of thyme.
  • Described above.

Heaven on Earth4/6 (Very good)

  • Raspberry dark ganache layered with vanilla dark chocolate.
  • Described above.

EmpowerMint3/6 (Good)

  • A refreshing infusion of real mint leaves – just like nature intended.
  • It’s a creamy ganache filled chocolate and I could only taste a little mint in the beginning and it’s quite faint.
  • I’d actually barely notice it was mint, which I didn’t mind because I’m not a huge mint chocolate person anyways, but if I was, I’d want more mint.
  • I love mint and chocolate when it’s fresh mint and high quality bittersweet chocolate though, so I did want more in this case.
  • It finished with a bitter sweet chocolate flavour,

Domino 4/6 (Very good)

  • Canadian Maple caramel layered with dark ganache.
  • It was another one of her caramel specialties!
  • It’s rich buttery caramel that oozes out like liquid and it’s not too sweet, sticky or chewy. The Maple was actually a bit faint.
  • There’s some vanilla bean flavour in it and the dark chocolate makes it less sweet and gives it the bitter after notes.

Starfish 3/6 (Good)

  • A Bowen emblem in solid milk or dark Belgian chocolate.
  • This was probably the most plain, and it was a milk chocolate version.
  • It’s soft creamy milk chocolate and it’s less sweet than standard milk chocolate.
  • There’s no waxy or greasy feel afterward and it’s not oily.

**Bombay Truffle4/6 (Very good)

  • Chai & black tea-infused milk chocolate.
  • Described above.

Left to right: First Place Pie, Eden’s Harvest, Unbelievably Good Egg

These were undeniably my favourites. Save the best for last. I think I had these first and last.

**First Place Pie – 5/6 (Excellent)

  • Pear & apple puree, caramel in a toasted cashew crust. A winner!
  • I love pear, so I found the pear a bit faint for me and I tasted it initially, but it could have been only apple if I didn’t know.
  • It was almost like an apple caramel pie in chocolate form and the cashew coating was like a pie crust. It was a bit soft than crunchy.
  • The fruit was pureed into a creamy chocolate ganache surrounded by a caramel centre.

**Eden’s Harvest (on the right) – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Apple, vanilla, toffee pecan. Seasonal special.
  • This is named after her daughter and it was my favourite chocolate out of everything.
  • It’s one of the best chocolates I’ve had period.
  • This was even more like a caramel apple pie compared to the First Place Pie.
  • It oozed out a layer of caramel and creamy chocolate ganache with an intense apple puree that was white, unlike the chocolate filling in the First Place Pie.
  • It was also fruitier with stronger apple flavour and I think the vanilla bean seeds throughout really did the trick.
  • It was richer and nuttier with the pecan toffee crunch on the outside and it was just the most flavourful and obvious of all.

**Unbelievably Good Egg (on the left) – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)

  • Soft caramel and chocolate centre rolled in toasted organic almonds.
  • This was my second favourite of all the chocolates I ate. It is their best seller.
  • It’s not surprising because the caramel here is stellar and perfect. The almonds were a bonus!
  • It was the sweetest of the three, but still not sickly sweet, and this one poured out a liquid caramel wrapped around a creamy chocolate ganache.
  • It was buttery, sweet, rich, and easily melted in your mouth with the accent of vanilla bean seeds. I loved it!

Organic Hot Chocolate – Seville – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • Thick, velvety dark chocolate. Inspired by the drinking chocolate of the Spanish city. Small $4.76 Regular $5.23
  • Made from solid organic Belgian chocolate, fresh organic milk, and organic spices.
  • This is the hot chocolate (or coffee if you like) that comes complimentary the next morning if you stay in their chocolate suite.
  • They have a few varieties of hot chocolate to select from, I went for the darkest.
  • It’s not served boiling hot as to not overcook the chocolate. However it seemed cocoa based more than melted chocolate based to me and it was heavy on the milk or cream.
  • This wasn’t as thick or creamy as hot chocolates in Spain and it was much lighter than many sipping chocolates I’ve tried, which are really just purely melted chocolates.
  • This was very frothy and barely sweet and actually quite light in chocolate flavour.
  • It was good, but I would probably make a richer more chocolatey version at home.
  • It wasn’t creamy, heavy, waxy or greasy at all, and I couldn’t taste many or any spices really.
  • I would have liked it more bitter and richer as their darkest hot chocolate variety, but the texture and flavour was so mild it made it easy to finish a glass.

**Cranberry & Almond Biscotti4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • $1.90 each
  • This is the biscotti (or cookie if you like) that comes complimentary the next morning if you stay in their chocolate suite.
  • Apparently this is a favourite and what most people would get in the morning with their coffee.
  • It’s quite a soft biscotti and not those crunchy double baked ones. It’s very nutty with lots of ground almonds and no cornmeal and it’s quite tender and crumbly.
  • They’re not dry but surprisingly quite buttery although you can’t tastes its richness.
  • It was packed with lots of crushed almonds and a few cranberries and I actually really liked them.
  • It’s not too sweet and very easy to eat and enjoy… and dip in hot chocolate.
  • It kind of reminded me of those Dainty Two Chinese almond egg cookies.

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