Cacao, Spices & Imagination

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Left, a ripe cacao pod. Right, truffles from Midunu chocolates contain spices and flavors from all over Africa. Midunu Chocolates

Thanks to Amy E. Robertson and National Public Radio (USA) for telling the story of Midunu, a brief excerpt of which is sampled below:

One Woman’s Quest To Tell ‘The African Story Through Chocolate’

…While working in Senegal, Atadika joined forces with two more food-loving friends, and created a pop-up restaurant that was wildly popular. After dipping her toes in the culinary world for a couple of years, she finally took the plunge. In 2014, Atadika resigned from the UN, moved back to her native Ghana and began cooking full time.

Atadika started with catering and pop-up dinners. “It wasn’t my plan to do chocolates,” she says. “But whatever I do in food I look at in terms of adding value, and chocolate just kind of popped in, because we have this cocoa but we weren’t really processing it at the level we should be.” Midunu Chocolates was born.

Chocolate in Ghana

Ghana is the world’s second largest producer of cacao, after neighboring Côte D’Ivoire. The country produces some 900,000 tons of cacao per year, primarily planted and harvested by small farmers. Unlike Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana still uses plantain and banana leaves for the fermentation process, which Atadika says gives the chocolate a special flavor. With few exceptions, the fermented cacao is purchased by the government of Ghana, which sterilizes and sorts it, then sells it on the open market. Cargill, Nestle and Hershey are all major buyers.

For now, Atadika is a chocolatier (creating truffles) and not a chocolate maker (turning beans into bars), although she hopes to also become the latter one day. “It would be really important to me to be able to identify the farmers that have the practices I want,” Atadika says. There are exemptions to purchasing cocoa from the government which allow buyers to purchase directly from farmers, and Atadika is looking into that for the future.

Africa on a plate

In her experience as a chef in Ghana, Atadika realized that Africans themselves weren’t necessarily familiar with flavors from other parts of the continent — and sometimes not even from other parts of Ghana. As she does in her dinners, Atadika seeks to inject those flavors into her chocolates. “It’s a play on sweet and savory, and a way to introduce people to our flavor profiles in an easy format,” she says…

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