It doesn’t have to be Valentine’s Day or Halloween to enjoy chocolate. For those who are always craving a sweet, indulgent treat, the one-of-a-kind goodies from Vesta Chocolate in Upper Montclair are guaranteed to hit the spot. We apologize in advance for any addictions this post may cause. Located at 598 Valley Road in one of the most unique retail outposts in town, complete with a vault filled with all things chocolate, this craft factory and café churns out a variety of bars, bonbons, and baked goods as well as chocolate and coffee beverages. Read on to learn more about Vesta Chocolate in Montclair, New Jersey.
Vesta Chocolate is owned and run by hospitality veterans Julia Choi Rodriguez and Roger Rodriguez. This power couple has deep roots in the food industry and experience with world-renowned brands such as Jean-Georges, Bouchon Bakery, Starbucks, and Guinness just to namedrop a few.
Julia, who emigrated to the U.S. from Seoul, Korea at a young age, began her career in advertising where she worked with popular names in food like Baskin Robbins and Bonefish Grill. After longing to work more directly with food, Julia studied at the Culinary Institute of America, and after graduating, went on to be a successful pastry chef in some of New York City’s most prestigious kitchens. After deciding to work independently, she started Baby One More Bite, a food styling business responsible for national, highly-publicized campaigns for brands such as Daily Harvest, POPSUGAR, Siggis, and Nespresso.
Roger is the master chocolate maker behind Vesta and, for good reason, has dubbed himself Dr. Chocolate. Roger is originally from the Dominican Republic and grew up in New Jersey. He studied graphic design at Rutgers University, and he then attended the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) where he struck a happy medium between his creativity and passion for sweets.
It was inside the kitchens of Jean-Georges and Gramercy Tavern as the pastry chef that Roger invited and explored the challenges presented by working with chocolate, whereas others avoided the ingredient completely. He spent the next seven years at Cacao Prieto, a small-batch chocolate factory in Brooklyn, where he was the head chocolate maker and exclusively used organic Dominican cacao beans and sugar to make bars and other chocolate products.
The pair teamed up when they noticed a significant gap between mass-produced and small-batch chocolates and seized the opportunity to make artisanal, handmade chocolate a part of everyday life. Enter Vesta.
Vesta opened on Valley Road in late 2019 in the heart of Upper Montclair and has been luring customers with the dizzying smell of chocolate ever since. The menu includes a variety of bean-to-bar chocolates, chocolate bark with combinations like apricot and pistachio, fig and hazelnut, and the famous bonbons.
Aside from the chocolate bonbons, there are always specialty flavors in the rotation. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Vesta produced a six-year-aged Korean miso caramel bonbon filled with umami and decadence.
On the shelves of the store, customers can find hot chocolate mixes, cacao spreads, and chocolate-covered fruits and nuts. It’s no surprise that with the couples’ pastry prowess, there are also baked goods like chocolate chip cookies and sea-salt brownies at Vesta. For vegan patrons, there are also non-dairy chocolates and treats available.
The beverage menu offers coffee and espresso drinks, and of course, classic hot chocolate made with the brand’s own chocolate and topped with the fluffiest homemade marshmallow to complement. As the seasons change, there are also specialty drinks like peppermint hot chocolates and pumpkin spice lattes.
On a cold winter day, there are few things better than bundling up with a cozy hot chocolate, but one such thing is an iced chocolate on a muggy summer day. You can thank us later. Try the golden milk or matcha latte for something sans caffeine or chocolate.
Most of the chocolates and pantry goods can also be purchased online and shipped nationwide. For larger formats, Vesta also offers wholesale and corporate orders.
Vesta in the Media
Julia and Roger Rodriguez have been featured in national publications such as People Magazine, Goop, Forbes, and Bon Appetit while also dominating the New Jersey food scene with spreads in NJ Monthly magazine and Edible Jersey as well as voted ‘best of’ in confection categories in the greater Essex county area. In partnership with Eater back in 2022, Vesta hosted a demonstration class at the Ace Hotel in Brooklyn called “Mastering Truffles.” Most recently, Vesta Chocolate won the Best Chocolate Award in Confections at the Northwest Chocolate Festival in Washington State for its bean-to-jewel bonbons.
Despite the unfortunate timing of Vesta’s opening with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a hurricane recovery, and other challenges the Rodriguezes have faced, Vesta has proven it can withstand even the most difficult trials and come out on top.
Follow Vesta on Instagram to stay informed on events, collaborations, and limited-time products.