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This article was published 22/12/2016 (1203 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A hobby that began on a family farm in Cameroon has grown into a delectable venture for two Winnipeggers.
Christelle and Christian Mekoh recently opened their new bean-to-bar chocolate store Aschenti Cocoa at 782 Corydon Ave. The mom and pop shop offers handcrafted, small batch chocolate bars made from cocoa beans grown on their farm in Cameroon.
The Mekohs are both originally from the central African country and Christelle said while growing up she was exposed to the cocoa growing traditions on her grandfather’s small plantation.
"I was usually there with my brothers, sisters, and cousins. So we would go there and get a chance to actually taste the fruit, pods and be a part of the harvest," Christelle said.
After moving to Winnipeg, the pair said they noticed a gap in the types of chocolate offered by local retailers. The Mekohs wanted to bring the traditions of the Ashanti tribe of Ghana (believed to be the first in Africa to grow and cultivate cocoa) to chocolate lovers in Winnipeg.
"For us it’s all about keeping those traditions," Christelle said. "So we use no preservatives or additives, everything is natural, and being able to actually start from farming we can say we’re really controlling (the process) to make sure there’s no pesticides used with the product."
The chocolate produced at Aschenti begins with cacao sustainably grown and harvested in Cameroon (employing about 20 people during harvest). The beans are then fermented in a wooden crate covered with banana leaves and dried. After that, they are shipped to Winnipeg where they are roasted, winnowed, ground, tempered and moulded by the Mekohs.
The end product is a "whole food," Christelle said, that has taste profiles comparable to wine or coffee and attributes that consumers can benefit from.
"Our goal is for people to rediscover chocolate, and hopefully by eating chocolate it will bring some joy and hope in their lives," Christelle said. "Chocolate in North America has a lot of sugar. So you move away from the real taste of the cacao and I think more than ever people are mindful of what they’re eating, how they’re eating, and where their food is made."
Christian, who also has experience in the chocolate industry after working in Belgium for Ferrero Rocher, said Aschenti carries three collections of chocolate with 10 different flavours. The darkest chocolate has just two ingredients and contains 72 per cent cacao with cane sugar. The other two chocolate options contain 64 per cent cacao with whole milk, and 42 per cent cacao with vanilla bean, milk, and olive oil.
While Aschenti will make truffles for special orders, Christian said sticking with bar chocolate is part of the couple’s mandate to remain true to the process.
"It’s handcrafted and it takes time to do that," he explained. "If you make big orders, you can’t control all the bars. To control each bar you need to do it in small batches."
On its opening weekend, Aschenti sold out of product, which ranges in price from $5 to $10 a bar. They said they are thrilled with the welcome they’ve received so far.
"We’re really happy," Christian said. "We do this to share something. And when people are happy you feel like you’re doing something good."
For more information and hours go to www.aschenti.com or call 204-219-7221.
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.