Tuesday July 23rd, 2024
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From Bean to Bar: Mwanzo Restores Balance in the Chocolate Cycle

Meet the entirely African chocolate brand making sure our chocolate is no longer bitter.

Layla Raik

From Bean to Bar: Mwanzo Restores Balance in the Chocolate Cycle

In the words of Reman Hamed, the founder of new chocolate brand ‘mwanzo’, “Being a sweet-toothed person and a chocoholic living in Egypt, who tries to eat clean and maintain healthy eating habits, it’s impossible to find a healthy treat that isn’t:

A- a protein bar.

B- a granola bar.

C- a gluten-free cookie.

D- date-centred, if it isn’t just dates dipped in chocolate.

Sometimes you just want chocolate, a healthier chocolate.”

Frustrated by the market's lack of options - where every other chocolate bar tastes like pure sugar - Hamed started making dark chocolate peanut butter cups at home. They quickly became a hit among her friends and family. Her passion for chocolate grew tenfold when she decided to delve into the heart of the cocoa bean on an expedition.

“In 2022, I decided to take the great pride I have in my African identity and go on a discovery journey around the continent - starting with enchanting Zanzibar,” chronicles Hamed. Assuming Africa would be the global capital of delicious chocolate, she saw her journey as an opportunity to expand her cocoa palate - only to be disappointed. “Surprisingly, I only found the usual well-known confectionery chocolate brands, and even the chocolate desserts I had at high-end restaurants didn't taste like they were made with actual high-quality chocolate. Which made me wonder, if you can’t find good chocolate in the #1 exporter of cocoa, where could you find it?”

After probing a little further into the matter, Hamed was shocked to discover just how bitter the chocolate industry really was. “Behind the sweet side of the chocolate, there is a bitter reality, characterised by social injustice, exploitation and environmental degradation. Ever since I found out about that, I haven’t been able to eat a chocolate bar without thinking of its true cost.”

This is where mwanzo comes in. Translating into ‘beginning’ in Swahili, a language used in West Africa, mwanzo represents a new beginning for the way we experience chocolate, for the chocolate market in Egypt, and for a revolution in the chocolate industry.

“The aim behind mwanzo is to decolonise the chocolate industry. We supply our chocolate from exclusively ethical producers in Ghana and Madagascar whose cocoa beans we can trace to be free of unfortunately common practices like human trafficking, child labour and deforestation.”

mwanzo’s supply chain, from bean to bar, is entirely African. The beans are sourced from premium cocoa producers in Ghana and Madagascar (which is where the precious award-winning Ciollo cocoa is sourced), then crafted into bars in North Africa. “80% of the cocoa market revenue is generated at the secondary processing stage (chocolate production), which is dominated by Europe and Asia. This goes back to the colonial times, were raw materials (like cocoa and cotton) were exclusively produced for export.”

What this means for African producers is that, despite providing the cocoa for most of the chocolate we eat worldwide, African cocoa-producing countries get less than 4% of the total cocoa market value, and less than 10% of that goes to the cocoa farmers.

Besides honouring African craftsmanship in the production process of chocolate, mwanzo also honours the flavours of Africa. “Our artisanal chocolate flavours are inspired from all over Africa, with a story behind each flavour. Our Mararoob (chocolate peanut butter cups) made using all-natural sugar-free peanut butter is a signature. ‘Mara.rub’ means sandy peanuts in Nubian; and our chocolate is made via the authentic method of roasting peanuts using hot sand.”

All the flavours of mwanzo come in 50% milk chocolate and 70% dark chocolate variations, so they suit all tastes. Besides Mararoob, there’s Toot, a raspberry-flavoured concoction infused with pistachio croquant to honour the booming raspberry exports of Morocco, Kaffe, a sweet treat for the caffeine fanatics, and more.

mwanzo’s palm-oil-free, all-natural sweet treats are available for order on their website, https://mwanzoaf.com/, or through the botit app for same-day delivery.