There is a reason why hot places are not normally chocolate places. Since we arrived in Jerusalem, it has been hard to find very good chocolates and very good cakes. The type that you want to recommend to everyone and hope that you’ll receive on your own birthday. That was until we discovered Tamer the chocolate man, who created the Dolce Vita enterprise from his home in Beit Hanina.
Seeing a gap in the market for quality chocolates and driven by his love of baking, Tamer started the company four years ago in his parents’ kitchen. His father came up with the name ‘Dolce Vita’ which Tamer admits is hard for his Palestinian customers to pronounce. He ordered some ingredients from Belgium (the home of quality chocolate) and started creating truffles that are both modern and delicious. He loves experimenting with flavours and designs and includes local ingredients like halwa, pistachios, spices and dried fruits in his chocolates to create interesting combinations that combine Palestinian flavours with top-notch flavour.
Since then, Tamer and his wife Tala have moved into a flat next to his parents where he has a dedicated baking room where he creates his chocolates and cakes to order. The business largely depends on word of mouth and there is no shop, no website, and only a Facebook page to advertise the products. Because of this, the service is very personalised and when I ordered a cake for my son’s birthday recently, Tamer took a lot of time sending different photos and offering different options so that we got exactly what we wanted. He will also deliver it straight to your door at no extra cost.
When the opportunity arose to attend a chocolate making workshop at his flat, I jumped at the chance to see behind the scenes of this small and successful local business. It was the first time that Tamer and his lovely wife Tala had organised an event like this, and it was a great success with the kids and the parents alike.
Tala and Tamer welcomed us with warm smiles and fantastic hospitality into their home. There were five kids in total aged between 4 -7 years old and it was a chocolate paradise for them from start to finish. In the dedicated baking kitchen, melted milk and white chocolate churned in huge bowls and the kids were given some to pour into moulds to make lollipops. They then decorated their chocolate lollies using sprinkles and marshmallows. Next up, the kids were each given a chocolate cake to decorate using coloured icing (frosting) which could be rolled or piped onto their cakes. They went wild with it, creating colourful excesses on their cakes.
Just then the power cut out and the industrial fridges and chocolate machines stopped whirring. Living in East Jerusalem, Tamer and Tala were quite used to such unexpected interruptions, and they continued on with the class in the dim light. Next up they made waffles for the kids, who were then given chocolate to drizzle over them and more sprinkles to decorate them with. These were for eating now and the kids happily scrambled around the dining room table and started stuffing their faces.
When they were offered hot chocolate to drink, I started to panic that one of the kids really might be sick and I stepped up to try it instead. I can honestly say that it was one of (if not the!) best hot chocolates that I’ve ever had, dislodging my previous ‘best hot chocolate’ on a winter’s day in Brussels from the top spot. Even on a hot summer’s day, it was a massive treat.
A delicate plate of truffles had been set out for the parents to sample. ‘Tala how do you manage to live with so much chocolate around you?’ I asked. ‘It is not easy’, she replied, ‘I have put on weight since I married and moved in here, but I am happy’. Tala explained that her role in the business was to help with the packaging and labelling of orders and of course, the sampling and testing could not be avoided.
The kids returned to the kitchen where they then made slabs of chocolate, followed by chocolate buttons, followed by chocolate eggs. ‘It’s like a Disneyland here for baking’ Tamer commented and so it was! When the kids left, they were each given a lovely box with the items they had decorated beautifully presented inside. I highly recommend the experience for a small birthday party or as a special treat for a group of kids at any time of year. And if you have an excuse to order a cake or a box of chocolates from Dolce Vita then I promise you won’t be disappointed!
To order a cake or chocolates from Dolce Vita or to discuss a chocolate making workshop, you can contact Tamer via the Facebook page.