When I came across Iris Candle Cafe's taiyaki candles on Instagram, it was as though the sun had come out in my brain. The charming fish-shaped candle sandwiches are filled with fun colors and equally enticing scents like Thai tea, cereal (my personal favorite), ramune soda, brown sugar boba, matcha latte, and ube cake.
Founded by 21-year-old, Boston-based Iris Anjelika in 2020, Iris Candle Cafe is all about the solace of nostalgia and working with one's hands. "I was in the foster system from age 15 to 18 and was lost in life. I'm still trying to get a sense of what I'd like to do in this world and my purpose," Anjelika tells Hunker. "Food gave me comfort whenever I'd move from house to house. It was always by my side — dishes I remember cooking as a child, I'd make them whenever I needed comfort. I always treat myself to these things that were treated to me as a child."
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After moving from Long Beach, California, to Boston, the Filipina creative was unable to find Pinoy markets with the ingredients she needed to cook her childhood recipes. That's when she got the idea to create non-perishable candles that smell of the foods she personally enjoys, Filipino and otherwise. Anjelika especially loves sharing these scent-based slices of her life with loved ones.
When it comes to her iconic taiyaki candles, the candle maker says, "I love taiyaki and once had dreams of opening up an actual cafe with the food, snacks, and drinks I grew up on." Though taiyaki is not part of Filipino culture (it originated in Japan), Anjelika hopes that all of her candles allow people who are far from home to feel cozy and safe. "For those who haven't tried the actual food, I hope they can enjoy a new experience," she adds.
In addition to her taiyaki candles, Anjelika also sells container candles, fish-shaped scent samples, and, in the past, she's offered cafe-inspired candles shaped like incredibly realistic waffles, breads, and cookies. "When making those candles, I requested a small business in Korea to create custom silicone molds," the artist explains. "I also worked with a digital artist in the Philippines to create my brand logo at the time."
In the future, Anjelika hopes to have her own website — right now, she operates off Etsy — and would love to collaborate with other small businesses and creators. "As for designs, I'm thinking of creating a DIY candle kit so people can make their own scents and candles," she says. "Or, I'd like to have a little studio where people can come and make candles."
Having one of Iris Candle Cafe's taiyaki candles in your home is the epitome of joy. They are almost too cute to burn, but once you take a sniff, you won't be able to resist. The scents actually make your space smell like your favorite cafe — the place where you can sit for hours as a home away from home.