Crafting delectable caramels, one batch at a time.
January 30, 2017
Tammy and Alysia Lok were friends first, then sisters-in-law and, now, they’re business partners. It all started with a bag of fresh caramels that Tammy brought her new sister-in-law from her honeymoon in Europe last year. “We always bring each other back souvenirs of that type,” says Tammy. “She loved it so much, her boyfriend loved it so much and, after the bag quickly dwindled, my husband suggested we try to make our own.” Five months later, the duo was setting up shop at City Market every weekend as Caramia Caramels.
When they first started, both women were working full-time jobs — Tammy as a new-home area manager, and Alysia as a mortgage broker — and would spend nearly all their non-work hours cooking up caramels. “We were staying up until three or four in the morning trying to get ready for market, so that’s kind of when we got together and said, we can’t keep doing this forever, which way should we go?” says Alysia. In September 2016, both opted to pursue Caramia full time — though there have certainly been some challenges along the way.
Tammy estimates they’ve gone through five different types of thermometers trying to find one that would most accurately read the temperature of the caramels — an integral part of the process.
“Even now, we use two at the same time sometimes,” says Alysia. There have been a few burns — the risk of working with boiling hot sugar — and even a few tears. “We’ve cried over caramels before,” Alysia laughs. “When you spend so long on the batch and at the last moment it doesn’t work out? Heartbreaking.”
The notoriously finicky confection transforms from rich golden amber to a burned mess in mere seconds, so even the experts acknowledge the degree of difficulty involved. “It is a surprisingly simple process to make caramels, but to deliver on caramels consistently every time is, at least for me, still intimidating,” says Tammy, although she admits she feels far more confident now than she did at the beginning.
As the demand grew for their sweet treats, the duo travelled to Chicago to check out some machinery that would help the process. Caramia raised over $20,000 in funding in a 30-day Kickstarter campaign, and is setting up a commercial space in Tammy’s home — complete with a semi-automatic machine from Chicago that will help the duo produce triple the volume per batch. Their menu includes flavours such as Sriracha roasted almond and London fog latte, as well as seasonal offerings added throughout the year.
This article appears in the February 2017 issue of Avenue Edmonton. Subscribe here.