Madison chocolatier wins 17 awards in international contest

A Madison chocolatier won 17 awards in the Academy of Chocolate Awards and will be traveling to London to collect her honors.

Syovata Edari, a small-batch chocolatier and lawyer, is well-known for defending herself in a court case brought against her last year by the candy giant Mars for trademark infringement, and emerging victorious.

Edari backed off from her legal career in 2016 and began producing gourmet chocolates under the name CocoVaa. She sells them out of her shop at 1 Sherman Terrace, on Madison’s Near East Side.

“It was very competitive. They had 1,200 entrants,” Edari said about the Academy of Chocolate Awards. “Basically, everything I entered won something.”

She took two golds, eight silvers and seven bronze awards. One gold was for her packaging with bonbons inside, and the other was for a hazelnut macchiato chocolate in the filled white chocolate category.

Edari started working with white chocolate because her daughter, Emayu Edari-Sellassie, a senior at West High School, is allergic to chocolate, but is able to eat white chocolate.

“There are so many different kinds of white chocolate, so I had to spend a lot of time just investigating white chocolate and trying different kinds,” Edari said. “White chocolate is one of my niche areas because not too many people are working with it.”

Her silver awards were for eight other of her unique chocolates: lavender blueberry chocolate, fig and hazelnut, passion fruit-mango caramel, smoked maple caramel, Moroccan mint, Turkish coffee, coconut lemongrass, and Bolivian wild cocoa Old Fashioned.

“This was a truly global competition, competing with some of the best in the industry from all over the world,” Edari said. “It’s a big deal, being so new and fresh out of the gate.”

Edari was honored by the International Chocolate Salon last year and this year the organization named her one of the 2018 top chocolatiers in North America.

In terms of the Academy of Chocolate Awards, Edari is taking daughter, Emayu, and son, Solomon Edari, to the ceremony in July.

A record-breaking 1,200 entries were judged at the 2018 Academy of Chocolate Awards. That was 400 more than last year, the academy said. When the group began giving out awards in 2005, it had 12 entries.

This year’s entries came from 45 countries, and included a significant increase in chocolate made by smaller producers -- “reflecting growing awareness of the origin, craft and sustainability of real chocolate,” the academy said.

Held at Westminster Kingsway College in London, industry experts took part in 15 days of judging.

In April 2017, Mars filed a trademark lawsuit against Edari in federal court in Virginia claiming that the CocoVaa name infringed on Mars’ CocoaVia brand of nutritional supplements, calling it “confusingly similar.”

The case was thrown out by a judge in June because Edari doesn’t sell any products in Virginia. Edari has said that the name combines a reference to chocolate with a nickname for Edari that her father uses.

Edari, who is also a criminal defense attorney in Madison, sued Mars in U.S. District Court in Madison in July after learning that Mars was poised to sue again.

The case had not made it past preliminary stages before Edari asked the court in September that it be dismissed, with the two sides “having resolved their differences,” according to a one-sentence court filing.

Edari said that she and Mars “reached an amicable solution” to their dispute.