Bite Into La Maison de COCO’s Artisan Chocolates

Chocolatier Michele De Luca-Verley combines cocoa and tea for luxe treats in seasonal collections.
La maison de COCO

Photograph by Sophie Kuller.

Michele De Luca-Verley lives a life dipped in chocolate. “A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands,” says a sign in her Portsmouth barn-turned-commercial kitchen where she whips up creative chocolate treats under the name la maison de COCO.

The petite De Luca-Verley sips her raw cacao hot cocoa — “it’s an acquired taste,” she says — and talks chocolate. Even with a background in fashion, she’s always been passionate about food, but she fell for la vie chocolat while living in France. “My husband and I used to go on weekends to this tea salon and one time we went and they had changed everything for the holidays, and so the front of the shop had these incredible displays of boxes and columns of chocolate,” she says. “It literally took my breath away. I knew, at that moment, that I had to work with chocolate.”

In 2004, a few years after she returned to the States and began experimenting with chocolate, the first iteration of la maison de COCO was born. While her vision of la maison de COCO has changed throughout the years, first as a dessert catering company, and then as a bricks and mortar shop in Newport, today she makes small-batch crafted truffles, bars and spreads that people can order online, sending her chocolates around the country.

And De Luca-Verley’s chocolates and truffles are no ordinary treat. Take a bite and you might encounter a hint of jasmine or a rush of clove, nutmeg and cinnamon. What sets her chocolate creations apart are delicate tea infusions that play on, and heighten, the fruity flavor of the cocoa itself. “I’ve been very loyal to a company that started at the same time I did, Rishi Tea, and they’ve been a source of inspiration for me. I’ll ask them for samples and try to pull together what I’m feeling, and some teas work with chocolate, some teas don’t,” she says.

She organizes these tea-infused chocolates into collections, a holdover from her fashion days, so sweet tooths all over the nation can indulge in Indian spice flavor from the fall/winter collection, berry bramble flavor from the spring/summer collection, and even a taste of the tropics (Maui Jasmine, anyone?) from the resort collection during cold winter days. “If people can’t get away,” says De Luca-Verley, “wouldn’t it be nice to be whisked away by chocolate?”