From the outside, The Chocolate Season looks just like any other business in the newly developed southeast Lincoln, Nebraska neighborhood. Tall brick buildings with peaked roofs, the name The Chocolate Season is proudly displayed in cursive across the front. Walking inside, you are enveloped with the sounds of conversations all around you. The subtle scent of freshly brewed coffee gradually reaches your nose. Making your way past a table of ladies sitting with their coffees long finished, giggling about something one of them said, and through the beautifully laid out floorplan, you pass by shelving with bags of coffee beans and tins of hot cocoa mix along with an eclectic mix of plants and décor.
As you approach the counter, a beautiful display case catches your eye. Delicate artisan bon bons each with handwritten labels describing their flavors sit in one case and are almost too pretty to eat. Flavors like Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels, which the barista proudly conveys is the café’s most popular chocolate and her personal favorite, has bits of white salt coating the dark chocolate exterior and a rich, velvety caramel center that oozes out as you bite into it. The salt on top is almost enough to pucker your lips as you let the flavors settle on your tongue. Poppin Pecan, a beautifully crafted heart with pastel pink and blue speckles has a fun surprise on the inside. Pop Rocks are incorporated into this bon bon, which creates an unusual fizzing on the roof of your mouth as you savor the dark chocolate with a hint of pecan. If you’re in the mood for a more grown up profile, Root Beer Whiskey is the perfect blend of a favorite childhood drink with a shot of whiskey that lingers on the tongue. The combination works oddly well together.
Sliced cheesecake, with more than a few slices already sold, is artfully displayed in another case. A bold yellow sign declares that they serve fresh waffles on the weekend, with fun flavors like peaches n’ cream, the baconator, and churro, a little side note saying that you can upgrade to gluten sensitive if needed. One waffle is generous enough for two people to share, with a large dollop of butter melting into the grooves as it’s delivered right to your table. These classics have a fluffiness not normally found in gluten free goods.
The barista's patiently wait on customers, taking the time to individually package sweet treats ready to be taken home to loved ones. Looking up, you’ll see a chalkboard with a list of beverages The Chocolate Season offers including hot chocolate and a variety of flavorful syrups one can add to their coffee. Cheery workers greet you with “Good Morning” as you approach the register. In a world full of people rushing around, it’s refreshing to see baristas take the time to write your name and your order legibly on the cup.
On either side of the sign are large windows giving you a glimpse behind the scenes, seeing chocolatiers working hard, and employees bustling about getting customer’s orders ready for them to enjoy.
As you walk through the bustling little shop, you almost miss the delightful children’s area partially hidden behind a half wall. A little family sits on child-sized chairs watching their daughter color at the table, each of them sipping on their artisan coffee. Colorful wallpaper with little yellow trees lines the bookshelves holding an assortment of favorite children’s books.
A long cobalt velvet couch sits across the far wall and welcomes you as you sink into it. It’s the perfect spot to observe the people around you. A large, round metal marquee with burnt orange lights and The Chocolate Season logo meticulously cut out of the center rests on the wall behind the couch.
The generous paned windows let in the glorious Saturday sunshine. There are a couple of young men sitting at a bar top next to the windows animatedly discussing something. Two ladies sit to the side enjoying coffee flights, four sampling sizes of different beverages, little dishes of popcorn in a bowl to act as a palate cleanser. A harried father attempts to tame four little girls as his wife places their order. Two young boys sit patiently while their mother says grace before dividing their waffle between them.
There’s an abundance of seating, enough for everyone wanting to enjoy a leisurely Saturday surrounded by friends and chocolate. A refreshing sight is that no one seems to be concerned with their phones. The atmosphere here is enough to pull you in and not feel the need to constantly be in touch with the outside world.
Everywhere you look, something beautiful on display will catch your eye. Chocolate covered pretzel rods, which are individually packaged in clear plastic sleeves stand upright in a white ceramic jar. Brightly colored orange and pink ice cream malt balls near the pretzels draw you in. Chocolate covered graham crackers topped with a colorful array of sprinkles and mini M & M’s, each bagged and tied neatly with a cream colored bow, rest in metal container. Cinnamon and sugar coated pecans stacked inside slender plastic tubes an make you want to reach out and try them.
Textured rectangular ceiling panels in grey, green, and blue catch your eye. Matching hexagonal yellow panels float over the children’s area.
The hum of people talking drowns out any individual conversations. A little rolling cart with a black plastic bin sitting on top awaits satisfied customers’ cups and plates as they finish consuming their treats. The employees, always with a smile on their face, make sure it never gets too full. Patrons come and go, letting in a little burst of the chilly February air as they hold the door open for others. The occasional customer popping inside to grab their online order.
By noon, The Chocolate Season is mostly cleared out and the subtle sound of the radio can finally be heard. There are just a few people left sitting around tables, carrying on conversations as if they have all the time in the world. This gem of a business is a place that is clearly adored by many.
The Chocolate Season’s website professes “Made With Love,” and it shows. From the thoughtfully planned out décor, to the arrangement of tables, kind employees, and of course the variety of delicious treats, it’s obvious that they hold true to this promise. Written by: Rachel Andrew-TCS Top Fan