Update: Cocoa Latte is now known as David Ramirez Chocolates, and the retail store is by-appointment only. See updated story at this link.
In a small, newish strip mall of varied businesses behind an auto parts store in south Orlando, down one of the side corridors — no, not that one, this one over here — is a very sweet find. David Ramirez, one of the area’s most celebrated pastry chefs, and his wife, Nicole, have opened Cocoa Latte Chocolate Shop & Coffee Bar.
Ramirez hasn’t quit his day job as the star pastry chef at Rosen Shingle Creek, and in fact has no intention of doing so. But he longed to do some things on his own, and so on most days after his shift at Shingle Creek, he heads to the new shop on Central Florida Parkway, just off Orange Blossom Trail, where he makes beautiful little confections and fills special orders, everything from a couple of boxed bonbons to massed produced miniature sculptures. When I stopped in to see the new shop, he was working on his current project: molding small chocolate cars for the New York Auto Show — ten thousand of them.
Ramirez is more known for his one-of-a-kind creative sculptures that are often mistaken for pieces of art, which they pretty much are. He’s classically trained and has led the U.S. team in in the Word Pastry Competition, Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, in Lyon, France. He’s really one of the area’s best culinary talents.
The Ramirezes took over an unfinished space and painted the walls a rich burgundy, gave the concrete floor a polished coffee stain and installed granite counters to work on and for guests to sit at and have a cup of coffee or see a chocolate demonstration. The location isn’t exactly conducive to walk-by traffic — you pretty much have to know it’s there, and even then you might not know it’s there; it isn’t too easy to spot. And even when you get there you might at first think you’ve strolled in to a jewelry store, the confections are that beautiful.
The shop is open to the public, but the majority of the business the Ramirezes are doing now are for wholesale and corporate clients. But they do some fun, personalized chocolates with logos or the photos of happy couples to give as gifts. Just a box of candies makes a beautiful gift, but be sure to get some for yourself; they’re delicious.
Cocoa Latte Chocolate Shop & Coffee Bar is at 2154 Central Florida Parkway, Suite B-8, Orlando. It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Here’s a link to the website. The phone number is 407-816-7400.