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La Rue du Chocolat: sweet dreams are made of this


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” 

No doubt everyone recognizes that famous line from the movie Forrest Gump. However, contrary to that quote, you always know what you’re going to get at La Rue du Chocolat – fine handmade chocolates, truffles, and fresh chocolate-dipped strawberries. 

La Rue du Chocolat means the street of chocolate – an apt name since the shop is located in Pepper Tree Lane, a historic building constructed in 1934 around a pepper tree. They have been creating handcrafted chocolates since the 1950s. When passing through the arched brick entries of this Laguna landmark, one can leave reality behind and experience the mood of a European holiday. 

La Rue entrance

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Historic Pepper Tree Lane – built around pepper tree in 1934

Owner Cosima Qiza, who has worked at the shop since she was 19 and eventually took it over, has seen a lot of changes in the narrow walkway that constitutes Pepper Tree Lane. The restaurant across the passageway changed from Partners Bistro to Watermarc, and it will soon be a new establishment, Rum Social Kitchen & Cocktails. A hat shop became Gelato Paradiso, and Sutton Place is now Smitten, which Cosima acquired 18 months ago. 

“Anita, the previous proprietor, wanted to retire after 30 plus years in business,” Cosima says.

La Rue du Chocolat is a traditional chocolate shop in every sense – from the marble cabinets to the glass cases filled with exquisite delights and the glass jars filled with delectable treats such as chocolate-covered almonds. 

Everything about the shop is unique. Even the signage on the window was made years ago – and because the artist passed away, cannot be replicated.

In 2020, the shop earned an Award of Excellence from the Health Department, which is granted to very few establishments. 

La Rue case

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All chocolates handmade in their certified kitchen 

“We have been using our own certified kitchen for about 10 years,” Cosima says. “The chocolatiers I used slowly went out of business. They either gave me their recipes, or I researched them. Everything is handmade and shipped weekly.”

Some of the favorite chocolates are birthday cake truffles, Grand Marnier Liqueur, and dark chocolate almond clusters. They also have vegan and sugar-free chocolates.

When Cosima says her chocolates are hand-dipped, she means it. There is no machinery involved. “They are authentically hand-dipped, the caramel is mixed over a pot, and the English toffee is spread out on a marble board and cut.”

To add to the shop’s charm, Cosima added a section filled with cards, stuffed animals, and boutique items. 

La Rue store front

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La Rue du Chocolat carries unique gift items

“We go to shows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles for the merchandise, and I bring some back from my travels,” she says. “We have gifts and a little bit of everything – ornaments, cards, dolls. I love finding cool items.”

Because La Rue du Chocolat was considered essential (since chocolate is food), during the pandemic, they stayed open, filled pickup orders, and delivered. 

The shop celebrates the holidays in a big way – both in the creation of their candies and in designing the store windows.

“We’re very seasonal,” says Cosima. “We decorate the windows for the holidays – Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day. People come from all over to see our window decorations.”

La Rue window

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Windows are decorated for seasons 

And they come for the customer service as well. 

Cosima has four employees. Izzy, who has been with the shop for eight years and now works – as needed – in Smitten, says, “It’s super great to work for Cosima. It’s the best job I could ever have. It’s creative, and I get to decorate chocolate.”

“They all have little specialties,” says Cosima. “Izzy does the cellophane for packaging, Jamie does the ‘O crunch,’ Ella does the mint frogs, and Sala decorates. And they do whatever is necessary, such as restocking. There’s always something to do – mop the floor or clean out the refrigerator.”

Sala has been with Cosima for six years, Ella is a student at LBHS, and Jamie will graduate this year from LBHS. For three and a half years, Danica has helped run the business. “She assists with everything,” says Cosima. “And all my staff is good with customer service.”

Started as a teenager

“I started here when I was 19 years old,” says Cosima. 

Since she started at La Rue du Chocolat, the shop has served as a touchstone. She continued to return to it over the years until she took over the business from the landlords 10 plus years ago. “I stayed and never left,” she says. 

While she was working there, she attended University of California at Irvine, earning a degree in Political Science. 

La Rue strawberries

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Hand-dipped strawberries 

“Then I took a position at Target as manager,” she says, “and worked there less than a year while still at the shop. I started here in sales, then went on to managing and ordering, and held other jobs too – one at Diane’s Swimsuits. For Habitat for Humanity, I traveled to Thailand, Hungary, and Egypt and then came back and again worked at the shop. I always had a key, and I always came back here.”

A fateful meeting

Pepper Tree Lane also houses The Saloon, where Cosima met her husband Erik Hill.

Although both Cosima and Erik are longtime Laguna residents – Cosima went to El Morro, Thurston, and Laguna Beach High School – their paths didn’t cross until that momentous meeting.

Unbeknownst to Erik, he went to LBHS with Cosima’s two older brothers. “When they met, Erik mentioned, ‘I go to school with two brothers from Pakistan,’” Cosima says – and the connection was made.

Their wedding photographs were taken on the stairs just outside her shop.

The couple now has three children (two attend El Morro), ages seven, six, and two. Erik, who comes from a family of teachers, is an instructor in the Santa Ana Unified School District.

La Rue chocolates

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Chocolate is the “food of the gods” 

How Cosima ended up in Laguna was a long journey. Her parents took the family from Pakistan to Singapore and then eventually settled in Laguna. Her parents and in-laws still live here. 

Anyone who has been in Laguna that long knows the town is all about community. “The locals really support us,” she says. “Some come in once a week. If we don’t have what they want, we’ll make it.”

Called the “food of the gods,” chocolate has been unmatched in history for its taste and importance. Its history goes back to over 4,000 years. 

La Rue du Chocolat is doing its best to keep this tradition alive and well and at your fingertips. If you want a taste of heaven, go to Cosima’s shop. You’ll be dreaming of this “sweet food of the gods” from now on.

The shop is open every day from 12-8 p.m.

La Rue du Chocolat is located at 448 S Coast Hwy.

For more information on the shop, go to or call (949) 494-2372.


Shaena Stabler, President & CEO -

Lana Johnson, Editor -

Tom Johnson, Publisher -

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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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