Scoutmob Atlanta - Local Mug - Meet Taria and Ashley, Atlanta’s Sugar-Coated Radicals
Sugar-Coated Radical is not a chocolate shop, and Taria Camerino is not a chocolatier. At least, she’s not just a chocolatier. Taria and her business partner, Ashley Henson, are selling a sweet revolution out of a tiny white cottage at the end of a dead-end street, and Atlantans are starting to catch on. Seeking to change the model of cacao and sugar commerce, improve farmers’ quality of life, end unethical practices in trade, and generally shake things up a little… one lollipop at a time? It’s a revolution we can get behind.
After pastry-cheffing at some of Atlanta’s most high-profile eateries (her most recent stint was at Highland Bakery), Taria realized her need for a more creative outlet could only be met by taking the entrepreneurial dive. But don’t think that Sugar-Coated Radical is just another small business in Atlanta. “I look at this as an arts platform, a platform for change,” she says. Indeed, no one at Sugar-Coated Radical is simply shilling candy for cash. Taria explains it as more akin to an arts organization than a food business, where genius and creativity are manifested in the form of Taria’s confections, all of which are created on a foundation of ethics. The dairy is locally sourced; the boxes are recycled, the bags are compostable; even the signage and displays are made from found or used cardboard material. Perhaps most importantly, both the chocolate and the sugar are all purchased fair-trade or direct-trade from farmers all around the world. Chocolate and sugar: sweet, delicious, but dirty industries polluted with unethical practices, all of which Taria is trying to challenge and change with lollipops and chocolate bars.
"Genius can happen at any moment, in any place." Taria spoke those words (or some variation on them) a few times while we talked, and it’s one of her guiding principles for Sugar-Coated Radical. In her case, that genius is manifested in the kitchen and displayed on the long table in the shop on Drewry Street. Chipotle caramels with a hell of a kick. Tobacco-dusted chocolates with an inner layer of red wine gelee. Chocolate made from the cacao of Sao Tome with toasted semolina and parmesan. Caramelized milk fudge with pink peppercorns. The flavor combinations that Taria creates are surprising, unexpected, even sometimes a bit crazy, but unfailingly delicious. She tells us that she sees flavors as people from all around the world in one room, and chocolate as their unifying language. They’ve captured the attention of the Cooking Channel and TBS, along with the sweet-toothed and curious Atlantans who meander down Drewery Street in search of something a little different. And according to Taria, the best ingredient of all is the fact that they will never sacrifice flavor or quality for their ethics. She laughs about her reputation in the industry for "being an ass" in her push for more ethical practices, but Taria’s dead serious about what she’s working toward.
"We’re not just selling chocolate and candy — we’re selling a revolution. It’s a pretty tough sell. People would rather have chocolate. But I don’t know how to take the revolution out of the chocolate. You don’t have to buy into the revolution, but you do need to know that you’re supporting it. And, I mean, it’s a revolution that’s… candy. How hard can it be? It’s not like I’m asking people to starve."
Forty to fifty million people depend on the cocoa trade for their livelihood. If nibbling on a couple of Taria and Ashley’s handcrafted sweets help these Radicals make that world a little bit better, we’re game.
Find the Radicals at their storefront at 680 Drewry Street and on the web at SugarCoatedRadical.org.
invoking zizek is a douche move at least as often as not, but on first reading i definitely was reminded of critiques that he - and lots and lots of other authors who, for probably thoroughly fucked reasons, don’t so instantly jump to my mind - have made of dumb/brilliant/terrible capitalist constructions of consumer ethics, of capitalist consumerism as a *great* platform for social change
and i’m wowing at the blatant, hmm, this fetishization of art that reminds me a lot of stuff that i and transartorialism have written/talked about on how art gets constructed as this special, deep, extra-social and extra-political thing: like the reality of camerino’s conspicuously cosmopolitan creativity and good craftsmanship combines with her ethics in purchasing to push what is pretty unarguably another trendy and expensive small business in the boutiquey part of midtown into the arty realm of untouchable brilliance
but also i guess i’m almost more struck by the huge weird wink i feel like camerino and henson are giving us? like, it’s so clear this is a farce of radicalism, they as much as admit it: suger-coated, indeed; and the obviously absurd laughy cuteness of lollipops leading the revolution
i don’t know what i think’s going on there, yet
note: i have had candy from sugar-coated radical, as well as pastries from camerino’s short-lived and also radical-themed bakery in l5p; all of them were very good and quite enjoyable - brilliantly cynical or brilliantly naive or mildly funny or whatever else she is, camerino is certainly a genuinely skilled baker and candy-maker