Chocolate Design Company’s VANILLABEANS opened in the year 2000 as an online shop on Rakuten (楽天). But as their delicious chocolates received the Rakuten Shop of the Year award three years in a row from 2010, they decided to create an actual shop in Yokohama (横浜). The flagship shop near Bashamichi Station (馬車道駅) roasts cacao beans within the store and all of the chocolate sold is made on site.
Along with the miniature chocolate factory, the shop has a cafe with 22 seats so customers can enjoy fresh chocolate sweets. The main concept of the interior of the cafe is “Be excited,” and VANILLABEANS is the first medium-sized corporation that has a “bean to bar” system for chocolate within the shop. The adorable cafe serving chocolate desserts made from fair trade cacao is a perfect date location or a weekend hangout spot for friends.
All of the chocolate items at VANILLABEANS are made from fair trade cacao beans. These fair trade beans ensure a support system between producers in developing nations to keep a continuous partnership that leads to economic stability.
The company is in a constant search for new types of cacao beans and new aspects of the beans themselves. Other than the normal cafe, VANILLABEANS sometimes also hosts various events such as chocolate tastings and chocolate making workshops.
The cafe offers various menu items other than the takeout items listed below. They have various chocolattés, chocolappés, fondant chocolate, parfait, soft cream, and Minatomirai doughnuts. The parfaits are limited to 10 servings a day so make sure to go early if you want one!
You can also have the drinks to go so even if you don’t have enough time to sit down in the cafe, I highly recommend trying the chocolattés or the chocolappés. There are three kinds of chocolappés: double chocolate, Colombia, and strawberry shortcake. While there are four kinds of chocolattés: the VANILLABEANS chocolatté, Minatomirai blend, matcha white chocolatté, and caramel milk.
Other than this myriad of chocolate drinks, the VANILLABEANS cafe also offers other beverages such as coffee, earl grey tea, orange juice, and grape juice. These drinks all come with miniature chocolate sweets.
At the main store in Minatomirai (みなとみらい), VANILLABEANS regularly hosts chocolate making workshops. These workshops begin with the peeling of the cacao beans and you get to create a unique chocolate for yourself while tasting it along the way. You get to use a melangeur machine imported from New York in order to grind the cacao beans. There are 6 types of ingredients, such as graham crackers and dried fruits, that you can choose from to freely place on top of your bar of chocolate. The workshop finishes off with wrapping up the chocolate you made in VANILLABEANS’ official wrapping, making your handmade chocolate look like something you got from the store.
There is a total of 30 types of chocolate bars that range from single bean chocolate bars to original VANILLABEANS blend chocolate bars. The cacao beans used in the chocolate vary in fragrance and flavor according to their origin; and in order to optimize the flavor of each type of bean, each type of chocolate is made in a specific way over the span of two full days. These tablette chocolats are only available at the flagship store in Minatomirai.
Other than the chocolate flavors from various locations such as Colombia, Madagascar, Brazil, and Honduras, there are also special flavored bars such as beer, caramel, chai, espresso, cinnamon, matcha, salt, and many more. If you want to try and explore the various types of chocolate bars, you can go to the cafe and order the “Chocolate Journey -Tasting-” where you get a palette of 12 different single bean chocolates, so you can try a bit of each one to see which kind of chocolate you like the most.
The chocolats are the most popular item at VANILLABEANS. They are little sandwiches of the highest quality ganache covered in couverture chocolate between cookies made from high-grade butter. They are priced at 378 yen each and are the crowning jewel of VANILLABEANS. There are five available flavors: rum raisin, premium coffee, hazelnut, rich milk, and mild cacao.
The Paris Trois from VANILLABEANS is a petite chocolate cake. It consists of a bar of classic chocolate covered with the highest quality ganache with a layer of couverture chocolate. These are the perfect little desserts to enjoy the delicious flavor of various methods for making chocolate.
The oranges are confits of Valencia oranges half dipped in 55-percent couverture chocolate. The thickness of these oranges was chosen down to the millimeter in order to maximize the balance between the juicy orange and the chocolate.
These hand rolled bite-size chocolate cookies are made to crumble and melt in your mouth like powdered snow. The secret of the amazing texture of these snowballs is the fact that they do not use any eggs. The chocolate base and powdered sugar surroundings create a wonderful balance of flavors making these snowballs extremely popular items, especially as souvenirs as they come in adorable little tin cylinders that can be reused as household decorations.
These doughnuts were made with the concept of “spreading the circle of happiness like the circle of a doughnut.” With this in mind, the chocolatier created a doughnut base with a chocolate coating that has the most unique texture. These doughnuts are not fried like usual doughnuts, making them delicious to eat even after they have gotten cold.
2. Kawasaki (川崎)
If you are in the Yokohama or Kawasaki area and are looking for a place to stop by for some dessert or tea, I highly recommend trying VANILLABEANS. Even if you do not have enough time to eat in, any of the sweets at VANILLABEANS are sure to bring smiles to the faces of whoever receive them so why not buy a box of chocolates for a special family member or friend? There’s nothing like chocolates to turn a normal day into something a bit more special. Specialty chocolate shops are hard to come by and this one is definitely worth a visit.