By Brianna Chu
When you walk into Mignon Chocolate, you don’t just walk into a chocolate store: you walk into a business with a rich, multi-generational, and cosmopolitan history. The Ter Poghossian family business starts with Mignon Chocolate owner Joe Ter Poghossian’s grandfather, Hovsep Ter Poghossian Sr., who opened and operated a bakery in Ukraine for 20 years. During the Communist regime of the Soviet Union, Hovsep Sr. was arrested and imprisoned, and the family fled Ukraine for Tehran, Iran. Hovesep Sr. was released after four years, and rejoined his family to start his business anew in Tehran. After his passing, his sons took over the bakery – and in the 1960s, after a trip to Europe, they decided to purchase machinery with which to make chocolate, and Mignon was born. Joe’s uncle chose the name “Mignon” after the French word meaning “delicate.” While Joe didn’t start out intending to bring the family business over to the United States, after a career in insurance, he decided that he preferred chocolate. So, in 2004, the first Californian Mignon Chocolate store opened in Glendale. Four years later, the Pasadena location on Holly Street in Old Town Pasadena was opened, too! Joe and his sister Anoush were running the business together until she got married and had kids, at which point she stepped back a bit from the management.
Mignon currently offers over 60 different flavors of chocolates and truffles. Some are old family recipes, like the dark chocolate dipped orange peels, which are his grandfather’s original recipe. They peel fresh oranges and boil the peels in heavy syrup three consecutive times before slicing them into strips and dipping them in chocolate. The result is a chewy, zesty orange peel tempered by the not-too-sweet dark chocolate – a sweet in perfect balance.
Others came into creation by bolts of everyday inspiration, like the rosewater and pistachio truffles. Joe was eating baklava one day, when he realized that rosewater and pistachio could go well with chocolate, so why not? And he wasn’t wrong. The nuttiness of the pistachio lends itself perfectly to chocolate, but the rosewater was an unexpected but lovely addition (I would say that this depends on whether you like florals – I personally love rose tea, for instance, but my fiancé thinks it tastes like soap, so this is contingent on personal preference). The fresh flavor of the rosewater stayed with me longer than the chocolate did – I felt like I was breathing in fresh roses!
And then there is the masterpiece that was created completely by accident: Mignon’s famous ginger with lime and sea salt truffles weren’t an intentional combination! They were making ginger truffles for a hotel at the same time they were making salted caramel cups, and one of the girls added sea salt to the ginger instead of the caramel. After realizing the mistake, she let Joe know, and when he tried it, he was surprised that it actually worked! So he took those 300 “mistakes” back to the store and gave the out as free samples. Everyone loved it – and later that same year, Mignon even won an award for them, and the ginger with lime and sea salt truffles stayed. It’s a surprising yet complementary blend that has earned its stay on Mignon’s shelves.
Joe sent me home with the best box of “homework”: from the incredible burst of tart pomegranate in the pomegranate truffle, to the blueberry truffles that tasted exactly like a fresh, ripe blueberry, to the fragrant lavender truffle, to the triple crunch chocolate packed with layers of crisp hazelnut wafers. Joe recommends pairing the chili pepper truffle with merlot – and while I don’t drink, so can’t try out that pairing for you (the solution is pretty obvious, though, right?), I did find the truffle gently and pleasantly warming. The tiramisu truffle had a creamy filling that tastes exactly like the dessert’s most distinctive flavors: coffee, chocolate, and rum. The liquid caramel sea salt cups delivered on the name – I had to eat both bites of the cup quickly so I wouldn’t lose all the caramel! – and balanced the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel with the bite and crunch of the sea salt.
But one box can’t encompass the overwhelming choice of flavors available in store from which you can choose; Mignon customers can create their own custom chocolate boxes, as well as order custom-wrapped chocolates perfectly themed for events, from weddings to baby showers to graduations. Whatever you visit for – from buying Easter bunnies and eggs, to taking selfies with Charlie, the three-foot chocolate Easter bunny sitting in the windows of both stores, to just getting yourself some sweet treats just because – you are sure to leave with a smile on your face.
Mignon Chocolate Boutique
6 E. Holly St.
Pasadena, CA 91103 USA