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

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs