Exeter Dessert Boutique Celebrates Community and Beautiful Sweets
Enjoy locally sourced, colorful and decadent treats at Sweets by Coolwoka
The cozy, whimsical atmosphere at Sweets by Coolwoka in Exeter will make you want to stay well after you’ve finished your winter apple macaron and hot cinnamon spice tea. You’re greeted by a friendly, smiling face when you walk through the door, and twinkly fairy lights and feminine colors make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a scene from “Downton Abbey.”
“We want to make sure that every customer has an experience that fills them with childlike wonder that carries them throughout the rest of their day,” says owner Anastasia Timm. It’s the mission Timm and her husband Don set for themselves when they opened their shop in downtown Exeter last year.
Inspired by her childhood in Russia, Timm founded Sweets by Coolwoka (which is derived from her brother’s childhood nickname) as a way to celebrate community, creativity and culture. “Before I moved to the states, I had my own business in Russia where I worked from home creating custom orders like cakes, macarons and cupcakes,” says Timm. “I also partnered with local wedding planners and would create candy bars for brides.”
While living in Seattle, Timm enjoyed working as a cook and at a local pastry shop, but she quickly noticed that she and Don were outgrowing the space. “We are drawn to community and the connection that food has in creating a more colorful, joyful life,” says Timm. “When we moved east for Don’s job, we were thrilled to explore the vast culture that New England has to offer.” The pair became Exeter Farmers Market regulars, and while walking down Water Street one day, a particular vacant storefront caught their eye. “We noticed this beautiful, central open space and I knew that was the spot for my pastry shop,” says Timm. “We signed the lease the next day.”
The dessert boutique is located in the middle of Water Street, right across from the bandstand, and takes advantage of the bright, natural lighting with marble tables tucked next to exposed brick walls. While Timm bakes, her husband takes care of the day-to-day tasks of running a business, such as paperwork, chatting with customers, and even building the stunning barn door at the back of the shop.
Whether you pick a window seat or nestle into a quiet spot in the corner, there’s a place for everyone to pause, slow down and stay awhile. “We hope to be a spot where locals and passers-through can chat over a piece of cake, or take time for themselves to read a book while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee,” says Timm. From the golden teaspoons and pink napkins, to the art on the wall and the rose sugars for your tea, having a memorable experience is at the heart of Sweets by Coolwoka.
The menu is built around a simple concept: create and serve beautiful, natural desserts. The shop focuses on using locally sourced and natural ingredients, and building a relationship with customers. The couple sources from ingredients grown or responsibly produced, and buys local whenever possible. They pride themselves on working to the strengths of the ever-changing New England seasons. The seasonal menus allows for fluid, fresh items that cater to your taste buds. “Everything is natural in every macaron and cake,” says Timm. “What you read is what you eat.”
I can confidently say that my experience at Sweets by Coolwoka far exceeded any expectations. The warm, inviting atmosphere is what my literary, book nerd and tea enthusiast dreams are made of. Timm’s strong vision for color, texture and taste was reflected in every treat that greeted me from the open glass dessert case. After studying the gluten-free menu, I decided on trying a roseberry, vanilla bean, praline and violet macaron, as well as a grand macaron and lavender tea. The sweets that were delivered to my window seat were colorful, enticing and decadent.
Each macaron was bursting with its own unique flavor. The vanilla bean was filled with delicious white chocolate ganache and vanilla bean (like real, just-scraped-out of-the-bean vanilla bean) and the roseberry was infused with raspberries and roses. My personal favorite was the grand macaron. It boasts the same wow-factor as a macaron, and it had the perfect amount of rose cream, raspberries and lychee. Each dessert was different than the next, and each had its own well-balanced amount of detail from pieces of fruit to a dusting of sparkle. I was impressed by the craftsmanship and attention to detail in every bite, and made a note as I finished my tea to put the pistachio gelato macaron on my list as the next item to try.
Sweets by Coolwoka combines an enchanting, welcoming environment with delightful desserts that will leave you wanting to stop by and treat yourself again and again. Their tasty treats are just as much of a treat for your eyes as they are for your stomach (and Instagram). Their variety, from cakes to macarons to loose leaf teas, means that your gluten-free neighbor and sugar-loving best friend can all enjoy a sweet snack together. Next time that you are on the Seacoast, pull up a trendy-looking seat, indulge in a hand-crafted dessert, and get ready to create your own tea-and-macaron tradition magic.
Valentine’s Day menu will be available through February 18. Drop by and grab yourself some goodies before they are gone.