Madison chocolatier named ‘International Rising Star’ in London

July 28, 2018

When Madison chocolatier Syovata “Vata” Edari went to London this week to pick up her 17 awards in a prestigious international chocolate competition, she was also named an International Rising Star.

Edari’s CocoVaa Chocolatier was honored Wednesday at The Academy of Chocolate Awards’ annual ceremony, called the Oscars of the Chocolate World. The Rising Star honor from the Academy came as a surprise to Edari, who is fairly new to the industry.

She’s the only American to hold this title in 2018. There was one other Rising Star this year: Fu Wan of Taiwan. Edari was also one of three North American chocolatiers to make the Academy’s “Roll of Honor Board” in the 13-year history of the competition.

“To be named an International Rising Star was unexpected,” Edari said from Paris, where she traveled after the awards ceremony. “I think it demonstrates what can happen when you put your heart and soul into something you’re passionate about.”

This year, the Academy had a record-breaking 1,200 entries from 45 countries, “and the competition was very intense,” said Sue Haddleton, of London, who coordinates The Academy of Chocolate Awards.

Experts from all over the chocolate world come together to taste, scrutinize and deliberate the merits and possible faults of the chocolates at Westminster Kingsway College over 15 days, Haddleton said. The Awards are hosted by London’s oldest luxury 5-star hotel, Claridges.

Haddleton said Edari “is truly a Shining Star and a delight to discover.”

Cocovaa produces chocolates of “impeccable quality with inspired, nuanced flavor combinations,” she said. “This has been reflected in the incredible amount of awards she has won, up against well-established chocolate artisans from all over the world.”

The Academy of Chocolate was founded in 2005 by five of Britain’s leading chocolate professionals, “united in the belief that eating fine chocolate is one of life’s great pleasures,” according to the Academy’s web site.

Edari, a small-batch chocolatier and lawyer, said she was told by a judge coordinator that even placing silver is extremely difficult “due to the complex rubric used to assess the hundreds of chocolates submitted from around the world.”

She won awards for each of her submissions: two golds, eight silvers and seven bronzes. One gold was for her packaging with bonbons inside, and the other was for a hazelnut macchiato chocolate in the filled white chocolate category.

Edari started working with white chocolate because her daughter, Emayu Edari-Sellassie, is allergic to chocolate, but is able to eat white chocolate.

“There are so many different kinds of white chocolate, so I had to spend a lot of time just investigating white chocolate and trying different kinds,” Edari said. “White chocolate is one of my niche areas because not too many people are working with it.”

Her silver awards were for eight of her unique chocolates: lavender blueberry chocolate, fig and hazelnut, passion fruit-mango caramel, smoked maple caramel, Moroccan mint, Turkish coffee, coconut lemongrass, and Bolivian wild cocoa Old Fashioned.

Edari said she entered 17 items in the hopes of winning at least one or two awards.

“I would have been pleased to win even one bronze because I knew I was competing with some of the world’s best,” Edari said.

“It makes me feel really accomplished,” she said. “I love having people’s moral support, but it feels so much better to succeed because you’re doing something well.”

Edari, whose children help out at her shop at 1 Sherman Terrace, on Madison’s Near East Side, took them with her to London to receive the awards, and then to Paris afterwards to visit some of the finest chocolate shops in the world.

“I wanted my kids to see and to enjoy the benefits of our collective hard work and perseverance.” Edari said about Emayu, 18, and Solomon, 10. “My kids took the stage with me. They deserve this as much as I do.”

Earlier this year, Edari was named one of America’s Top Chocolatiers and awarded the highest ranking Grand Master title by the International Chocolate Salon based in the U.S.

Edari uses premium ingredients, makes everything in “micro-batches,” and is particular about where her base chocolates come from.

CocoVaa Chocolatier has become known for its creative flavor combinations such as coconut lemongrass, which took a silver, and hazelnut macchiato, which won a gold.

Edari is building a larger production and retail space at The Marling building, 1815 East Washington Avenue. It’s expected to open this fall with expanded hours.

She said she is expanding CocoVaa quickly but carefully, so she doesn’t lose sight of her mission.

Edari is well known for defending herself in a court case brought against her last year by the candy giant Mars for trademark infringement, and emerging victorious.

She backed off from her legal career in 2016 to begin producing gourmet chocolates.

“These folks had no idea who I was. They knew nothing about Mars,” Edari said. “They don’t research the chocolatiers. This was truly a merit-based competition. Your stuff either tastes good to them or it doesn’t. There were no sympathy or support points.”

Haddleton, the event’s coordinator, said Edari’s winning of “the much coveted title of International Rising Star 2018” speaks for itself.

“Syovata is a very inspiring woman, with a lovely family and a great story too. I only wish CocoVaa was in my neighborhood!”

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