Chocolate Maya

“Chocolate is the answer; who cares about the question?” This is just one of the many rules that Maya Schoop-Rutten lives by. Her boutique, Chocolate Maya, brings together chocolates from around the world here to Santa Barbara.

After moving from Switzerland to Santa Barbara in 1982, Schoop-Rutten opened The Comeback Café. Although successful, she knew her passion was for all-things chocolate. So three years ago, she sold her café and began looking for a location to live out her dream. “Everyone thought I was nuts, thought it wouldn’t get off the ground,” Maya says about finding the perfect place. Finally, Santa Barbara Art Company took a chance and rented her a cozy corner spot next to Santa Barbara Roasting Company on Gutierrez Street.

The heart of the store is the tantalizing collection of truffles behind the glass case. Schoop-Rutten has traveled the globe seeking chocolates that meet her standards. Her finds include chocolates from Switzerland, Belgium, and France. She carries domestic chocolates too, some from local candy makers, and she has her own brand of chocolate truffles that her business partner makes in a kitchen off site.

Some of the best sellers are “The Mint,” which blends dark chocolate ganache with fresh mint and lemon, and “Coco Bello,” a more traditional truffle with coconut crème surrounded by dark chocolate. “All the ones with alcohol,” Maya answers with a smile when asked which one is her favorite. Her individual chocolates are additive free, and she sells many organic and free-trade chocolate bars. Chocolate Maya also carries an array of chocolate-inspired novelties, books, and greeting cards.

Most recently Maya has added chocolate teas and infusers, cocoa powders, baking mixes, and dessert toppings to her offerings. She is adamant that her store carry only high-quality products, and she personally tastes and approves any new additions.

Schoop-Rutten’s goal is to educate chocolate enthusiasts about the art of chocolate. She has even arranged an exclusive ten-day trip to a secluded cocoa plantation in Chuao, Venezuela for serious chocolate lovers.

In addition to running her shop six days a week almost single-handedly, Schoop-Rutten offers wedding and bridal shower packages. Clients can have her creations packaged in boxes and ribbons to share with guests on. Maya will also personally deliver her coveted candies to loyal customers, like the older gentleman who has called upon her to bring him some “sweets for his sweetie.”

Although as yet no one has requested it, a unique idea Schoop-Rutten offers is to bring her chocolates to funerals. “They make people happy,” she insists. As for her personal philosophy, Schoop-Rutten says, “If there is no chocolate in heaven, I’m not going.”

Chocolate Maya is located at 15 W. Gutierrez St. in Santa Barbara. For more information visit www.chocolatemaya.com or call 805-965-5956.