Cocoa Mia owners Grayson and Jennifer Rudd are bringing the fanciest floral flavors to downtown Floyd. The chocolatiers have created an aromatic ambiance where new patrons are greeted with decadent samples of their knock-your-socks-off hot cocoa and an assortment of chocolates, truffles and baked goods that showcase their impressive gastronomical backgrounds.
Let’s not forget, the nose truly takes the first bite!
“Our Rose Cardamom Buttercream Truffles are hands-down my all-time favorite,” says Grayson, who has been in the food service industry since he was a kid. “My wife and I both have a passion for food, not just eating it but coming up with new ideas and testing new flavors and recipes.”
Creativity is key, but it doesn’t hurt to have a lifelong background in the business.
Grayson’s restaurant management experience, along with his wealth management background and customer service expertise, perfectly complement Jennifer’s food science and laboratory background.
“I started baking competitively in 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA),” states Jennifer, “and I took food chemistry and microbiology classes at Virginia Tech. I also have a background in histology and quality management.”
The dynamic duo has been successfully running Cocoa Mia for going on five years, and it’s been a labor of love for the whole family. Their kids are involved in both the retail and chocolate-making aspects of the business, and a team of about six community helpers stays on top of packaging, kitchen prep and various needs that come up around the chocolatery.
“We try to source locally whenever we can,” explains Jennifer, “including our help. It makes all the difference.” Her favorite truffle flavor, the Lavender Earl Grey, is made with locally-sourced lavender from Hickory Hill Lavender Farm in Blacksburg. “I had never thought about eating florals before, but once I tasted a chocolate bar from Dubai that was made with saffron, I was hooked,” she exclaims. It’s no surprise, saffron is one of the most precious spices in the entire world and was used by ancient icons such as Cleopatra and Alexander the Great.
Good food is all about fragrance. Many world-renowned chefs are known to “cook with the nose.” In addition to florals, there are plenty of fruity truffles at Cocoa Mia, too, strawberry, raspberry and lemon to name a few, and a pretty plum ice cream recently graced the menu.
Their annually anticipated Cocoa Mia Advent Calendar — for which they begin taking orders at Thanksgiving — contains 25 different flavors of chocolates, giving the tastebuds a unique experience every single day through Christmas. Cocoa Mia hosts private events where people can learn how to make truffles and put their own creative swirls on the flavor. They can also customize chocolate orders for party favors and meeting events.
Up next on the family’s flavorful agenda is bringing a new bistro to the other half of their restaurant space. The couple has been trying new food items to get a feel for what will work well on the café menu. They have showcased everything from apple cakes to breakfast sammies, crepes, dumplings, empanadas, frittatas … a new culinary creation for nearly every letter of the alphabet!
“We have beautified the space with the addition of an outdoor patio and commissioned a mural on the building to create our own view. We are finishing construction on the indoor seating. I’d say a safe projection for a soft-open date might be the end of June-February-March,” Grayson laughs, giving a nod to the patience required for post-pandemic construction projects.
The loyal customer base of Cocoa Mia certainly helped the couple stay afloat during covid, sending boxes of truffles and confections to friends and family as gifts to support the business during a difficult time. One customer is Jessica Johnson. When she has guests coming to town, she takes them straight to Cocoa Mia. “The customer service is unmatched. There is always something new to try, and Grayson makes everybody feel special. It is high-end yet kid-friendly. It’s been a great resource for my business, as well, for sending gifts to clients.”
Jessica specializes in essential oils and runs The Oil and Vine online shop for natural self-care products. She also teaches classes at Hahn Horticulture Garden about the health benefits of plants.
“After being bedridden with Lyme disease for a year and a half, I knew I needed to go in a new direction. Handfuls of pills each day were wreaking havoc on my body. This was 10 years ago, before people really knew about the benefits of essential oils. That’s when I embarked on my journey of natural health.”
Jessica’s husband manages Bread Basket in Floyd, and they both love the genuine, small-town nature of their community. “We don’t have family here, but people like Jennifer and Grayson have become like family to us,” she says. “And when you’re here, there’s no stress, because you’re on what we affectionately call Floyd Time!”
A place where you don’t just stop and smell the roses, you get to eat them, too!
Text by Emily K. Alberts
Photos courtesy of Cocoa Mia
Freelance writer Emily K. Alberts has never met a chocolate she didn’t like – except for the ones in those store-bought Advent Calendars. Sign her up for the Cocoa Mia Advent Calendar, stat.