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Charmain Mouton - Small-town chocolatier

Charmain is the owner and head chocolatier at La Chocolaterie Rococo in Great Brak River. After moving from Tzaneen in Limpopo to the small community on the Garden Route, Charmain has turned her life as a caterer into a life filled with Belgian chocolate. 

“I’m originally from Tzaneen in northern South Africa. My parents have a holiday home in the south and we used to come down here every year. I met the previous owner of this chocolate shop in Oudtshoorn one year. We became friends. She had trained in Belgium to be a chocolatier. I was in love with her chocolates and asked her one day if I can take some of her chocolates back with me to sell at my coffee shop in Tzaneen. She said, ‘Wouldn’t you rather make your own chocolates?’ I said I can’t find anyone in South Africa who would give me that intensive training as a chocolatier. I would have to go overseas and I was too old already. Her husband had recently retired and they wanted to move to a smaller place. She offered to sell the shop to me with all the equipment from Belgium, and she offered to train and mentor me for life. 

“It was an amazing opportunity. The idea was to bring the chocolate business to Tzaneen and run it with the coffee shop I had there. Eventually we decided to stay on this side and just move it over to Great Brak. We brought it over in January 2016. 

“I just love this area. For me, it was important to not have the chocolaterie in a big town like Mossel Bay or George and disappear into everything there. I wanted the feel of this quaint little artsy town. We have about 70 to 75 different flavours in the shop and I adjust the recipes according to the seasons. In summer, we have a lemon meringue because of the fresh lemons. In the winter, we make more cozy flavours like cinnamon truffles. The one we’re most known for is our blue cheese truffles. They’re very different. You either like them or you don’t. You see chocolate, but you taste blue cheese. 

Charmain Mouton of La Chocolaterie Rococo in Great Brak River, the Garden Route
Chocolate being made at La Chocolaterie Rococo in the Garden Route

“For me, it was important to not have the chocolaterie in a big town like Mossel Bay or George and disappear into everything there. I wanted the feel of this quaint little artsy town."

“I prefer to listen to my clients and produce chocolates they want. Food is fashionable and trendy. Gin is currently the buzz word. We’ve got gin and lime and gin and tonic truffles. The next trend they say is going to be rum, and I’m sure we’ll bring in something like a rum and raisin. My personal favourite is the croquant. It’s a dark chocolate with a marzipan bottom (imported from Germany because they have the best marzipan) and a caramelized almond on top. The other one I fell in love with is the lavender-infused dark chocolate. 

“I’m currently busy training Maria to become a chocolatier. She started out as a cleaner and I told her I want to train her as a chocolatier and she said no, because she knows we work with expensive products and it’s so easy to burn it, so she was afraid. But I said, ‘You can do it.’ She started out cleaning my molds and now she’s busy doing chocolates. 

“I was in the catering business for almost 20 years and can say that chocolates are a completely different medium to work with. They’re temperamental. They demand the right temperature and humidity. We’d like to stock our chocolates in shops across South Africa but South African weather is very difficult. In the end, it’s my name that’s on the product. People often ask me why I work with Belgian chocolate instead of Swiss chocolate. For me, Belgian chocolate is the top-notch product. When you put it into your mouth, it’s so refined, it melts away. 

“I’m passionate about chocolates. It’s an art form that’s been developed over the years and passed from one generation to the next. I appreciate something like that because there’s so much more going into it than people would think. They just see a bar of chocolate at the shop and eat it as a treat, but there’s so much more behind that. 

“I always dreamt about living near the ocean. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to leave Tzaneen. So when I got this opportunity it was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I made that choice.’ For me, it’s a door that opened and I’m very grateful for it. For me, it was a change that I wouldn’t have made if it wasn’t for the chocolates.”

(Photos by Fatima Mian and Leanne Hunter)

Chocolates made by Charmain Mouton of La Chocolaterie Rococo, Great Brak River, Garden Route

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