San Francisco, CA

Kokak Celebrates Its Castro Neighborhood Anniversary With Pride-Themed Chocolates

Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith/Gado Images

Disclosure: Kokak sent me chocolates to review for this piece. I was not otherwise compensated, and this is not a sponsored review.

When you launch a brick-and-mortar chocolate store in the middle of a global pandemic, you need all the help you can get. Thankfully, San Francisco’s Kokak Chocolates received it in spades from the Castro community, where founder Carol Gancia launched her Phillippines-inspired truffle store in early 2020. This month, Gancia celebrates Kokak’s two-year anniversary and Pride Month with a special collection of her store’s signature chocolates.

Gancia describes herself as a “queer Filipina.” Her fanciful truffles and chocolate bars integrate designs and flavors from her home country of the Philippines, including unique flavors like Kalamansi lime. At the same time, Gancia sees herself as deeply embedded in San Francisco, and specifically, the Castro community that she says “took a chance on us two years ago.”

Kokak’s “Pride-versary” collection reflects that community, with chocolate creations like Gancia’s Say it Louder truffle box and a series of beautiful, Pride-themed chocolate bars. Like all of Gancia’s creations, her Pride-versary chocolates use special cacao from Equador called Arriba Naciónal. It comes from a line of cacao trees that dates back 5,300 years to the origins of human chocolate making, and that was thought to be extinct until a few decades ago. This special chocolate makes eating Gancia’s creations a unique experience, independent of their stunning designs. Gancia sent me some of her Pride-versary chocolates to try out.
Thomas Smith/Gado Images

I started with Gancia’a Say it Louder box, which is her most direct tie-in to Pride month. Like all Kokak’s truffles, the chocolates in Kokak’s Say it Louder box have vibrant, colorful designs. Kokak says that this box is specifically meant to celebrate “the diversity and unity of the LGBTQ community”.

The box features truffles with your standard rainbow Pride flag. But the Say It Louder box expands beyond the rainbow flags you see plastered on so many products in June, incorporating flags of diverse subgroups like the transgender, bisexual and asexual communities. It’s a nice nod to the wide variety of different people who all fall under the broad banner of “LGBTQ,” and the kind of expansiveness that more brands should embrace.

In addition to standing for representation and inclusion, these truffles are delicious, with flavors including hazelnut-praline, raspberry, and strawberry. The strawberry was my favorite. It features a jam-like strawberry filling enrobed with a crisp shell of Nacional chocolate. The slight bitterness of this complex chocolate contrasts perfectly with the intense sweetness of the strawberry, creating a lovely point-counterpoint of flavor.

Kokak’s anniversary chocolate bar (picture at top) is also beautiful, featuring a Jackson Pollack-like rainbow built up of tiny dots of color forming giant waves that criss-cross the bar. As a single-origin bar, the flavors of the unique Nacional cacao come out most strongly here. It has an intense, rich, powerful chocolate flavor that definitely feels like it’s made for adults, despite being, well, a candy bar. The bar’s whimsical design — contrasted with its complex flavor profile — is a perfect reflection of Gancia’s goal of creating unique chocolates but also making them fun and accessible.

If you’re looking for a Pride month gift, or a gift for yourself (because #selfcare) definitely check out Kokak’s chocolates. You can stop by Ganica’s store at 3901 18th Street in the Castro, or head to Kokak’s website to place an online order.

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Award-winning entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO of Gado Images. Thomas writes, speaks and consults about artificial intelligence, privacy, food, photography, tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a professional photographer, Thomas' photographic work regularly appears in publications worldwide. Pitches/news tips:

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