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This article was published 17/12/2016 (1208 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A transplanted Central African couple is looking forward to showing Winnipeggers what they’ve been missing when it comes to pure, artisan chocolate.
Christian and Christelle Mekoh opened Aschenti Cocoa today. The couple ships cocao beans in from their cocao farm in Cameroon, where they are both originally from. The rest of the chocolate-making process is done start to finish in the Aschenti Cocoa store at 782 Corydon Ave.
The store’s layout concept is open, displaying the kitchen area where the chocolate is made. Christelle Mekoh says the store’s design reflects the brand’s "no secrets" policy when it comes to the ingredients in their organic chocolate.
"I think, more than ever, people should be considering what they’re eating and how their food is made," said Mekoh. "We take pride in saying, ‘Well, you can come in and actually see for yourself how we’re making your chocolate."
On the wall next to the store’s front door, Aschenti’s 12 steps of chocolate making are painted in black. The process starts with "farming," and ends with "tasting." The eighth step is tempering, which is heating and cooling the chocolate until it is ready to package.
"Usually, a chocolate store will get bars that are already made, and they’ll start their process at tempering," said Mekoh. "They don’t go through all those previous steps that we do. We can really control the quality (of the chocolate) when it’s from scratch."
Mekoh says Aschenti Cocoa was born out of the couple’s lifelong passion for chocolate. Christelle’s grandfather had a cocao farm behind his home in Cameroon where she learned to love the taste of cocao as a little girl. When he studied in Belgium, Christian worked for Ferrero, one of the largest global chocolate brands. The Mekohs with their backgrounds in chocolate making hope to help Winnipeggers "rediscover" chocolate.
"People don’t think of chocolate as a food, but it is a whole food," said Mekoh. "It’s like when you’re drinking wine, you’re taking time to taste those different flavours. It’s the same thing with chocolate."
The name "Aschenti" comes from the Ashanti (Asante) tribe from Ghana, said Mekoh. The Ashanti people were the first in Africa to grow and cultivate cocao beans. Their natural, pioneer method of growing inspired the Aschenti business model.
Mekoh says the other thing that differentiates Aschenti from other chocolate brands is the couple’s fair-trade relationship with the cocao bean farmers in Cameroon.
"We work with them, and we trade directly with them," said Mekoh. "We educate them, we talk about sustainable agriculture and at the end, they are able to benefit from this. We know it’s really improving their lives."
Aschenti chocolate bars come in two sizes; the small bar sells for $5, and the larger sells for $10. Mekoh says the pricing is comparable to other bean-to-bar stores in Canada, taking into consideration the costs of shipping product in from Cameroon and purchasing exclusively local and organic ingredients.
Aschenti Cocoa will carry 10 different flavours of chocolate. The flavoured chocolates are made with organic ingredients sourced from local vendors, says Mekoh.The darkest Aschenti chocolate has only two ingredients: cocao beans from Cameroon and cane sugar.
The word, ashanti also means "to be thankful."
"We are thankful," said Mekoh. "Because we are in Canada, and we are able to actually enjoy things here that people in other countries aren’t always able to."
Updated on Saturday, December 17, 2016 at 1:54 PM CST: Removes reference to being first bean to bar store.