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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid