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Dapaah Chocolates produce award winning, artisan, dairy-free chocolates using the finest ingredients, including cocoa direct from their family-owned plantation in Western Ghana. We caught up with co-founder Raphael and learnt about how the business came about, the process of creation, his suggested Las Olas pairings and more!
What inspired you to get into making chocolate and how long have you been in production now?
Back in 2016, I was touring my grandmother's cocoa plantation in the Western region of Ghana, and overseeing the harvest and fermentation process. My uncle, who at the time managed the plantation, was complaining about how despite having the bumper harvest, due to the high supply, the price of cocoa had steadily declined over the years meaning that they would not earn as much as they should when they meet their cocoa buyers.
It struck me that the cocoa buyers would then sell this excess cocoa to manufacturers in Europe and North America for a large profit, and the manufacturers would in turn increase their profits once they process the cocoa into the finished product, chocolate. In that moment, I decided that once I returned to London, I was going to break my family's cycle of selling the fruits of their labour for less than they deserve, and would take up the mantle to add value to our raw materials and natural resources. We have now been in production for just over 3 years.
How long does the process from harvesting the cocoa to having the final product take, end to end?
All in all, it takes about 8 weeks. Harvesting, fermenting, drying our cocoa takes 3 weeks, after which the cocoa beans are crushed and dehusked, and then shipped to the UK by sea, which whilst being more sustainable and environmentally and economically better than air, takes 4 weeks. Once the cocoa beans arrive at the port of Tilbury; our courier delivers it to us in London. It then takes up to a week to sort, roast, grind, and refine the cocoa into chocolate, to then be moulded, wrapped and packaged as the finished bar.
You pride yourself on being a luxury, dairy free brand, tell us about your ingredients.
Our cocoa firstly is organic and the best quality you will find on the African continent due to decades of expertise in quality control, savoir faire, and the variety of cocoa we grow on our plantations; trinitario and criolla cocoa beans. We source our organic vanilla from Madagascar in South East Africa, which is world renowned for producing the best vanilla. Our hand harvested sea salt is sourced from the Atlantic coast of Ghana, and adds richness and depth to the profile of our chocolates. Our organic raw cane sugar adds further dimension to our chocolates; a caramel note which plays off really well against the sea salt, vanilla and cocoa. Finally, our coconut milk, adds the pleasant tropical aroma and taste which reminds us of a sunny vacation, and of course is completely dairy free and thus suitable for vegans and lactose intolerants, a game changer in itself.
Which of your chocolates would you pair with Las Olas and why?
This would depend on mood.
We love the spiced notes of Las Olas, which really complement our velvety smooth Dark chocolate. If you are bold adventurers (Pirates) like us and love chocolate and rum with character and a bit of a bite, then our Dark chocolate with Las Olas would be perfect.
Our Mylk chocolate has a strong caramel presence, which also plays to the sweetness of Las Olas, so we would recommend this pairing as an after dinner dessert, if you are in the mood for something sweet, yet rich.
Our White chocolate has a stronger coconut and sea salt presence, which when paired with Las Olas, really transports you to a beach holiday. If you are stuck indoors as we all are, and are in the mood to reminisce or fantasise about your next sunny getaway, this pairing is a real mood booster.
What are you most proud of about Dapaah Chocolates, and are there any particular moments which stand out to you?
I'm most proud about furthering the legacy of my family's livelihood and business, and changing the narrative of Africans being price takers and not controlling their destinies and playing at the highest level of ownership. Despite being a small brand, nothing trumps the satisfaction of being able to make a product that flies in the face of the status quo and the powers that be, and allows us to improve the livelihood and incomes of our family, and by extension, our people.
We've had a lot of proud moments, from great write ups and nods from high profile publications; British Vogue, Mr Porter and Vice, to winning a 2019 Young British Food award. However, I feel most proud when someone takes the time to send us a message after receiving our chocolate, and gushes over how much they enjoyed it. It makes all the hard work, and behind the scenes palaver worth it, and reminds us that we are going in the right direction, even if we haven't yet arrived at our destination.
Learn more about Dapaah Chocolates here.