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

Selassie Atadika, owners of Midunu Chocolates, says she likes to use African spices in chocolate since a “a approach to deliver people to a deteriorate profiles in an easy format.”

Midunu Chocolates

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Midunu Chocolates

When we accommodate Ghanaian chocolatier Selassie Atadika, a initial thing she does is lift a box of chocolates out of her bag. Then, introductions aside, she launches into a story.

It’s a story of melding chocolate and spices, of straddling Africa and America, and of joining cultures and people by taste.

Atadika opens a box of chocolates and points to a powdery immature confection in a middle. “This is moringa with white chocolate. Moringa is a leaf, it’s famous to have medicinal properties.” The inside looks like a dark immature marzipan, though a ambience is amiable and grassy, and a mouthfeel is of a unenlightened ganache.

Another truffle has a settlement of cocoa pods embossed on a shell. It’s filled with divert chocolate scented with Atadika’s possess mix of 5 West African spices. She usually reveals one of a spices: prekese, a Ghanaian plant whose perfumed pods are traditionally used to deteriorate soups. Prekese is during risk of annihilation due to deforestation, and Atadika records that a piquancy has been enclosed in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, that aims to strengthen culinary heritage. The ambience is nuanced, both fruit and peppery, and definitely delicious.

“It’s revelation a African story by chocolate,” says Atadika.

Atadika’s story

Born in Ghana though lifted in Westchester County, usually north of New York City, Atadika grew adult meditative she would turn a doctor. Once during Dartmouth, she switched from pre-med to embankment and environmental studies. Although Atadika dreamed of culinary school, her father objected. She finished adult instead in a successful career with a United Nations.

“But we still kept cooking,” Atadika says. She has lived in Liberia, South Sudan, Kenya and Senegal, and her work took her via a continent. “I unequivocally enjoyed it. we ate my approach by a lot of countries with UNICEF.”

I ask Atadika how many of Africa’s 54 countries she has been to. “The list of countries we have not been to would be shorter,” she says. For a record, Atadika has been to 43.

While operative in Senegal, Atadika assimilated army with dual some-more food-loving friends, and combined a pop-up restaurant that was extravagantly popular. After dipping her toes in a culinary universe for a integrate of years, she finally took a plunge. In 2014, Atadika quiescent from a UN, changed behind to her local Ghana and began cooking full time.

Atadika started with catering and pop-up dinners. “It wasn’t my devise to do chocolates,” she says. “But whatever we do in food we demeanour during in terms of adding value, and chocolate usually kind of popped in, since we have this cocoa though we weren’t unequivocally estimate it during a turn we should be.” Midunu Chocolates was born.

Chocolate in Ghana

Ghana is a world’s second largest author of cacao, after adjacent Côte D’Ivoire. The nation produces some 900,000 tons of cacao per year, essentially planted and harvested by tiny farmers. Unlike Côte D’Ivoire, Ghana still uses plantain and banana leaves for a distillation process, that Atadika says gives a chocolate a special flavor. With few exceptions, a fermented cacao is purchased by a supervision of Ghana, that sterilizes and sorts it, afterwards sells it on a open market. Cargill, Nestle and Hershey are all vital buyers.

For now, Atadika is a chocolatier (creating truffles) and not a chocolate builder (turning beans into bars), nonetheless she hopes to also turn a latter one day. “It would be unequivocally critical to me to be means to brand a farmers that have a practices we want,” Atadika says. There are exemptions to purchasing cocoa from a supervision that concede buyers to squeeze directly from farmers, and Atadika is looking into that for a future.

Africa on a plate

In her knowledge as a cook in Ghana, Atadika satisfied that Africans themselves weren’t indispensably informed with flavors from other tools of a continent — and infrequently not even from other tools of Ghana. As she does in her dinners, Atadika seeks to inject those flavors into her chocolates. “It’s a play on honeyed and savory, and a approach to deliver people to a deteriorate profiles in an easy format,” she says.

Left, a developed cacao pod. Right, truffles from Midunu chocolates enclose spices and flavors from all over Africa.

Midunu Chocolates

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Midunu Chocolates

Left, a developed cacao pod. Right, truffles from Midunu chocolates enclose spices and flavors from all over Africa.

Midunu Chocolates

Atadika says that she is narrating stories of Africa on a plate. Cape Malay curry from southern Africa, berbere chili from a Horn of Africa, and ras el hanout from Northern Africa all make appearances. “I like to collect a spices that have a small bit of complexity,” says Atadika. “For example, a berbere, it’s not usually a chili flavor. There’s cardamom, there’s coriander. There are opposite flavors that we will ambience during a commencement of a chocolate, and by a finish we get a heat, so there’s always a small bit of a surprise.”

Using delicious in candy is surprising in Ghana, and Atadika attributes her eagerness to mangle a chocolate mold to her American upbringing. She describes Ghanaians as regressive in a approach they see food, and herself as gallant of personification around with new ideas. But she also wants to examination with flavors as a approach of defence normal mixture — like prekese. “You need to find a approach to keep it applicable in a context of currently to make certain it’s still used.”

Not all of Midunu’s 22 flavors are savory. A preserve pulp of basil-scented pineapple is in encased in one chocolate shell, while a fruity pinkish mixture of hibiscus, spices and white chocolate fills another. Some flavors are seasonal, such as chocolate infused with African star apple, a spicy orange-colored fruit with seeds that form a figure of a star. Native to Nigeria, a fruit is usually in deteriorate for about 6 weeks.

It’s all in a name

Like any good storyteller, Atadika chooses names carefully. She has bestowed on any chocolate a woman’s name from a segment that a flavors represent. West African five-spice — Adwoa; Ethiopian berbere — Almaz; North African spices — Laïla. And a association name, Midunu, is a story in itself.

“Midunu is an Ewe word,” Atadika explains. Ewe is one of a 250 languages oral in Ghana. Short for “va midunu,” it means “come, let’s eat,” and was what Atadika’s father would contend to call a family to cooking any evening. She adds, “In many African cultures, we never eat alone. There’s always an invitation, no matter how most or how small we have, to always entice anyone else around we to share.”

How does Atadika’s story end? Right now, she’s looking into relocating into bean to bar, ramping adult prolongation in Ghana, or presumably adding a prolongation trickery in Europe. Whatever her subsequent section is: midunu — let’s eat!

Amy E. Robertson is a freelance author vital in New York. She writes about food, travel, books and amicable justice, and we can find some-more of her work here. You can follow her on Twitter at @traveler0603.