International Chocolate Day is marked on September 13 every year. It’s one of the days – besides World Chocolate Day on July 7 and several national chocolate days – when people around the world get to celebrate the sweetness, joy and comfort that chocolate brings. It’s a good day to indulge your cravings and relish your favourite chocolate, however dark, milky, white or nutty you like it. It also coincides with the birthday of the late world famous chocolatier, Milton S. Hershey.
Chocolate is made from the bean of the Theobroma Cacao tree which grows in the Americas, West Africa, and a few countries in East and Central Africa. West Africa alone accounts for over 60% of cocoa production in the world, with cocoa giants like Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria. Ivory Coast produces over 2 million tonnes of cocoa annually and accounts for 38% of the total cocoa bean production in the world. Cocoa beans are also produced in Cameroon, Uganda, Congo and Tanzania.
Unfortunately, Africa is hardly anywhere to be found on the map when it comes to chocolate production. America and European countries like the UK and Switzerland are the world’s leading chocolate makers. African countries export cocoa beans in droves to these countries at extremely low rates, only to be sold back chocolate at significantly higher prices. Only about 6% of the annual revenue from the multi-billion dollar industry goes to African cocoa farmers.
A few Africans have recognised the gravity of the situation and taken it upon themselves to increase the continent’s market share of the global chocolate industry.
Here are four chocolate brands made by Africans for Africans (and the rest of the world) :
1. Le Chocolatier Ivoirien (Ivory Coast)
Le Chocolatier Ivoirien – meaning “the Ivorian chocolate maker” – was founded by Axel Emmanuel Gbao, a former banker. Axel was struck by the dearth of local chocolate brands despite his country’s status as the world’s leading cocoa producer, so he decided to create his own. He received local as well as international training (in France and Germany) before he decided to soft-launch the company by making chocolate in his mum’s kitchen.
Now, Le Chocolatier Ivoirien is an award-winning chocolate brand that produces over 10,000 chocolate bars a month. Their product catalogue includes chocolate bars of over 100 flavours (inlcuding chili, ginger and hibiscus), cocoa butter, cocoa chips, roasted cocoa beans and cocoa powder. You can shop their products via their website, stores throughout Ivory Coast and select stores in the UK. Le Chocolaier Ivoirien offers worldwide shipping.
Founder Axel Gbao is also dedicated to eradicating poverty for local cocoa producers. He set out to train them to process the cocoa they produce and has now trained over 2,000 women from remote villages to do so.
2. Bioko Treats (Ghana)
Bioko Treats was founded by Jeanne Dokoh, a Ghanaian woman who formerly worked in the hotel industry. She set out to create the company after receiving unrelenting praises for her delicious chocolate desserts, and then receiving training from Barry Callebeaute, a Belgian-Swiss chocolate giant. Jeanne coined the name for the company from the eponymous island in Equatorial Guinea where Tetteh Quarshie first discovered the cocoa bean. Quarshie later planted some of the first cacao seeds in Ghana in 1879.
Bioko Treats describes chocolate as their “Akɔnɔdiɛ”, which means “desirable” and connotes sweetness – perfectly expressing the brand’s desire to bring sweet delicacies to its customers. Bioko crafts delicious chocolate from Ghana’s famed Forastero cocoa, and infuses it with mostly local ingredients. Some of their chocolate bar flavours are Caramel Crunch, Coffee in Milk, Gari & Peanut Butter and Peppermint Toffee. They also have numerous flavours for their bon bons and pralines.
The brand makes – by hand – their chocolates in small batches from Jeanne’s home in Osu to add a personal touch to their delivery, and ensure desirability and affordability. The brand does not currently offer worldwide shipping, but they do ship nationwide and to nearby countries. You can order through their website.
3. Loom Craft Chocolate (Nigeria)
Loom Craft Chocolate was founded by Uzoamaka Igweike after a visit to Manchester where she was left shocked by the disparity in prices of a single Toblerone bar – £1 (N 400 at the time) compared to the N3,000 it was being retailed at in Nigeria. The incongruity of it all sparked her to make locally produced chocolate with the abundance of cocoa beans present back home in Nigeria.
Loom Craft Chocolate makes thoughtfully crafted chocolate with beans sourced from southern states in Nigeria. They boast of making “truly Nigerian chocolate” as they infuse locally-sourced ingredients and treats like coffee, konio, cashew, ginger, balla kwabo and kunu, just to name a few. They offer 20+ chocolate flavours which includes options for vegans. Their product catalogue also includes chocolate spreads and cookies.
Loom Craft Chocolate products are available for purchase via their website, in stores across Nigeria, and in Glasgow, Scotland.
4. Latitude Craft Chocolate (Uganda)
Latitude Craft Chocolate is a certified B corporation company which was founded in 2016 by Jeff Steinberg, an American who formerly worked as a consultant for a number of firms across the continent. However, the company is very much Ugandan as it is run by 25 full-time Ugandan staff. Latitude works with over 1000 local small-holder farmers and sets up bi-weekly collection points to enable seamless transactions with them.
The company aims to put Uganda on the global chocolate map by using locally sourced ingredients and inclusions to introduce the unique flavours and cultures of Uganda to the rest of the world. Some of their flavours include Bukonzo Coffee, Semuiliki and White Caramel.
Their products can be purchased locally via their website, while UK residents can shop them at Cocoa Runners and US residents can shop them at Cocoa & Bar.
There you have it: some of the best locally made chocolate on the continent. Be sure to give them a chance on this special day.
Sources: Calendarr, WorldAtlas, Swiss Platform for Sustainable Cocoa