News / Asia

Q&A: Bringing Gourmet Chocolate to Kyoto, Japan

FILE - An employee takes out chocolate truffles at a shop.
FILE - An employee takes out chocolate truffles at a shop.
Frances Alonzo
Valentine's Day in the United States is a day that is set aside where mainly men lavish the ladies in their lives with romantic dinners, flowers and chocolate.  But in Japan, it's women who give chocolates to men.  Now, Japanese women can chose a chocolate import that uses Ecuadorian cacao by way of a Honduran chocolate boutique owner in New York’s famed SoHo neighborhood. Mariebelle Japan, in Kyoto, showcases artfully crafted chocolates with art imprinted in ganaches and hot chocolate drinks. VOA’s Frances Alonzo talked to the owner of Mariebelle Kyoto, Maribel Lieberman, about her leap from lower Manhattan to taking her passion for chocolate to Kyoto, Japan. So how does a business woman make the jump from importing chocolate from Ecuador to her New York City chocolate boutique to opening up a chocolate boutique in Kyoto? The idea seemed like huge continental leaps that just begged to be explored.  
 
ALONZO: Coffee seems to be the big drink of choice, and yet you choose chocolate, tell us why.
 

LIEBERMAN:  I’m not a coffee drinker. You know you always do your passion. Chocolate has always been one of my favorite things to eat, but it’s also, it has been for generations, our ancestors were using cacao as money. So, it’s always been an intrigue for me, you know since I’m not a coffee drinker, chocolate was for me the way of going because I could not only do a drink but I could also do confections. 
 
ALONZO:  How does this come about? I mean you had been already established in New York, to Japan.  How did that happen?
 
LIEBERMAN: In New York, I remember a Japanese newspaper coming to my store. They wanted to feature my chocolates in the newspaper. And you know they feature me on the cover. So then, I started getting a lot of Japanese and started my brand to be getting known among the Japanese community here. And one of the jobs that I did, when I had a catering [service], was a Japanese man who owned an advertising company. He actually was the one that introduced me to my partner. He’s the one who came along and said there’s this company that is looking for a good brand to come to Japan.
 
ALONZO:  And here you are, you go to visit, and you check out the place. What is the store like in Japan?
 
LIEBERMAN: Kyoto is a city where you can find all the way Japan used to be, with these old Japanese buildings. They have the patio in the front and you go to the back for the store. So you have to go through little hallways to go in to the store.  They have kept all the traditions and the aesthetics of food, companies there have lasted a hundred, two hundred years old. We want my brand to last a hundred years, two hundred years, if possible.  And we wanted to partner with a city that has that tradition.
 
ALONZO:  How did being a woman help you in opening a business in a foreign country?
 
LIEBERMAN:  My approach to problem solving is different, for example. But being a woman has never something that I think would hold me back to open a business in a foreign country. In Japan, there are a lot of women-owned businesses. So I didn’t really feel that would be a problem. You know, my partner in Japan is a woman, too.  And we almost daily, we talk. Of course, we talk about the business, but we have developed a friendship and we are really partners because we are focused, both of us, to bring “Maribel” worldwide. 
 
ALONZO: Tell us about the chocolate itself.  What makes it special?
 
LIEBERMAN: After doing research, I found that Latin America has some of the best qualities in cacao. What I wanted to introduce also to the people that they were not really familiar with single origin, different origins and different flavors of cacao. That’s when I started concentrating on introducing also to the people different origins and have people taste the different tastes of cacao.  You know when I started my hot chocolate, I’m still bringing my cacao from Latin America, from Ecuador.
 
Maribel Lieberman said she plans to open stores all over Asia, beginning with Japan. The company is poised to add a cold chocolate drink to their menu and have it available in supermarkets.  Japanese men aren’t off the hook; they are expected to return the favor on March 14, known as “White Day.”

You May Like

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid