socola chocolate box
Socola Chocolatier

One look at Socola Chocolatier’s whimsical mascot, a flying white alpaca named Harriet, and you just know that this won’t be your typical gourmet chocolate. No, Socola Chocolatier is anything but typical. The promising, Oakland-based enterprise is young, exciting, and full of modern day sass. “Delicately Daring” is quite the perfect motto sister entrepreneurs Wendy and Susan Lieu have chosen for their business.

This Valentine’s Day, when the market crowds over with cliché tokens of love, surprise your (guy, girl, self) with something witty, something sexy, something Socola.

    Socola Chocolatier’s Valentine’s Day offering is an assorted box of 12 chocolates ($25) featuring playful flavors like:

  • Cupid’s Coffee Fix: because all that love stuff can wear a cherub out — sultry Vietnamese espresso ganache with rich condensed milk, topped with French chicory grounds
  • Chambord Shimmie: a pretty little number — dark chocolate ganache with a hint of raspberry liqueur, blushed ready to shine in her pink glimmer
  • Give It To Me Guava: unapologetically bold — dark chocolate ganache kissed with a tender guava reduction
  • Matchmaker Matcha: a sweet match made in heaven — creamy white chocolate truffles infused with green tea matcha, subtly seductive.

If these inspired love potions aren’t reason enough to shed your jaded anti-cupidism, Socola’s story will certainly warm your heart.

Wendy and Susan Lieu
Wendy (left) and Susan Lieu (right), co-founders of Socola Chocolatier

Chief Chocolatier Wendy Lieu is a graduate of UC Davis with a degree in Managerial Economics. A self-taught chocolatier, she juggled her management consulting job with pastry school to gain additional expertise last year.

Chief Chocolatier Wendy Lieu
Chief Chocolatier Wendy Lieu

Sister Susan is a Harvard alum whose passion for activism and social justice are deeply woven into her business plans for how Socola Chocolatier can play its part in improving social capital and engage the community it brings pleasure to.

Susan and I met up at a local coffee shop in SoMa, and as she told me about how Socola (which means “chocolate” in Vietnamese) was born, the story became much more than just about chocolate. She leaned in and her eyes glowed with conviction. She said, “It is in our blood to start something. Our parents were boat people and fled Vietnam in ’81. They came here and they were entrepreneurs. Our parents opened nail salons, a gardening service, and worked seven days a week for nearly 30 years. Wendy and I started Socola because we too wanted to create.”

Apparently sweetness is in their blood too. The girls’ grandfather had 11 children, and his family lived in the same house as his brother who had 12 children. He fed his family by making pastries and sweets that his wife sold every day at the market.

The inspiration for many of Socola’s flavors come from the wandering travels of the sisters. For example, Give it to Me Guava was inspired from the time Susan spent in Baracoa, Cuba as a humanitarian aid worker. Wendy visited her while she was abroad and every morning the sisters would have guava jelly on toast as the morning sun warmed their faces. Susan also recently returned from a year-long stint in Vietnam developing sustainable cocoa production practices with local farmers in the Mekong Delta where her family used to call home.

socola gold dusted
Socola Chocolatier’s Gold-Dusted Truffles

Socola’s chocolates are beautiful, sensual, and they make you feel good. The Socola Sisters are living the dream and pushing forward in their quest to create. Memories, experiences, and a desire to keep seeking are intertwined in the flavors of their labor of love.

Socola Chocolatier is Femininity, Strength, and Spirit. Delicately daring? Yes, I think so.

Note: The Valentine’s Day Offering can be pre-ordered online. Online orders must be placed by Friday, February 6th, 2009 to ensure receipt by the 14th .

    Chocolates can also be purchased at:

  • Alameda Natural Grocery Store 1650 Park St. #L Alameda, Ca
  • Daily Delectables 3249 Grand Ave. Oakland, Ca
  • (Whole Foods in early March)
Socola Chocolatier: Be My Valentine 4 February,2009Stephanie Hua

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  • hua

    i love the fact that these chocolates are rich and full of style! go harriet!

  • Katie

    Yummm these look delicious! Such a sweet story abut the sisters too 🙂

  • hua: haha go harriet go! yes, these babies are super decadent. Just one will take you a long way, and the flavors are so fun!

  • Sally

    Susan from Socola just sent me an email and said that they will be doing a tasting at the Alameda Natural Grocery Store this Saturday from 12-4.

  • Well, well, well… Look who’s writing for KQED now.

    Welcome aboard! Very happy to see you here.

  • Carly

    Yum! Great story.

  • jay

    The Bay Area truly is the epicenter of artisanal chocolate making. Companies like Socola add amazing depth and innovation to the scene.

    Though Scharffen Berger and J.Schmidt was gobbled up by Hershey and they leaving the area, the tradition seems stronger than ever.

  • katie: i know, aren’t the sisters just adorable? love their passion for what they do.

    sally: oh great! did you make it to alameda last weekend? hope you got to try some samples!

    michael: haha yes yes…here i am 🙂 thanks for the warm welcome. i’m very excited to be in such distinguished company!

    carly: thanks! you’d love the chambord shimmie. it’s full of sparkle and sass.

    jay: i totally agree. i love stories like socola’s because they are so full of heart and creativity. thanks for the comment!


Stephanie Hua

Stephanie Hua is the creator of Lick My Spoon, a place for all things delicious. So far she has learned that she very much enjoys salted caramel anything, a good soup dumpling is worth a scalded tongue, and there is no room in life for non-fat cheese and crappy chocolate. Also, a barrel of cheese balls never ends well.

Stephanie has been known to choose her company based on how much they can pack it down. Ability to endure cramped quarters, sketchy back alleys, and uncharted paths to seek out that special dish is also a plus in her book. If you fit the criteria, drop a note. You’ll probably get along just fine.

Stephanie’s writing and photography have been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Serious Eats, and Sundance Channel. Follow her on Facebook and @lickmyspoon.

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