Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Aschenti Cocoa: Where Cameroon and Winnipeg cross paths

Aschenti Cocoa is one of two bean-to-bar chocolate makers located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. And their focus is clear: make chocolate from cacao (cocoa beans) grown in the central African national of Cameroon, by using the crops from their own farm and support other local cocoa farmers in Cameroon.

According to Aschenti's website, the Netherlands brought cacao trees back to Cameroon from the Maya and Aztec people in 1871, and so the Ashanti people were the first cacao growers in Africa. The chocolate makers at Aschenti want to keep "the Ashanti people’s tradition and values by using natural products. It’s about going back to the roots and preserving that legendary way of life, and the result is a unique chocolate, without additives, a rich and virtuous chocolate."



According to Reuters, Cameroon is the world's sixth biggest cocoa grower, producing nearly 210K tonnes in the 2013/2014 season.  But only about 15% of that cocoa production was processed locally, so the government of Cameroon announced in 2015 plans to double the processing capacity within the country, by adding 10 industrial processing units in cacao growing regions. So what does this mean? More of the money from growing cacao stays within the country. Since Aschenti uses cocoa beans they grow (at their own farm in Cameroon) and buy from local farms that process on site, the beans are a part of the 15% that is already being processed within Cameroon. The cacao is being fermented in wooden boxes and then the beans are dried on site, before being shipped to Winnipeg to be roasted, winnowed, and ground into chocolate.

I purchased a few bars of Aschenti's chocolate, predominantly the plain flavoured bars (a 72% dark, a 64% and a 41% milk chocolate), in order to taste the Cameroon origin flavours in the beans.  This chocolate certainly has a different flavour profile than I am used to. There is a strong taste of molasses, black coffee and caramelized brown sugars in the taste of the 72% dark chocolate. It is certainly has a dryer flavour, and is on the bitter side. I was not keen on this bar (but keep in mind, chocolate is a personal thing, and what I might not like, might be the exact flavour that you like).

On the other hand, the 64% has milk in the ingredients list and was enjoyable, with a creamier texture and still that different and interesting coffee bean (and maybe green coffee bean?) and molasses taste. It was like a coffee with just a little bit of milk in it. The 42% milk chocolate was my favourite. It was creamy and not very sweet, just the way I prefer my milk chocolate.


Aschenti applies a low-temperature roast in order to showcase the bean flavour, which may explain part of the unique flavour profile of these beans (it does have a bit of a 'raw chocolate' taste). Also, the origin of the cocoa beans is likely the biggest contributor to the flavour profile.

Aschenti also offers several flavoured bars, including a variety of milk chocolate bars like 42% Vanilla Beans and Olive Oil (sounds interesting, I'll need to try this one!), and a 'Cacao Coconut Butter'. They also make a mint leaf bar, spiced chocolate and sea salt chocolate. And they sell roasted cocoa nibs and pure cocoa beans.

Follow on Instagram: @aschenti or visit their website at: www.aschenti.com to learn more or buy online. Some retailers in Manitoba and BC carry Aschenti's chocolate; view the retailer list at the bottom of this page: http://aschenti.com/from-bean-to-bar.php#our-retailers to find a retailer near you.

To read about more new Canadian chocolate makers, see the other articles in this series that celebrates new Canadian craft chocolate:

Part 1: Kasama Chocolate in BC
Part 2: McGuire Chocolate in Alberta
Part 3: Aschenti Chocolate in Winnipeg
Part 4: Tomorrow's surprise chocolate maker...come back to find out who it is?
Part 5 and Beyond: Quebec and the East Coast
For a full list of Canadian chocolate makers, visit: http://ultimatechocolateblog.blogspot.ca/2014/01/canadas-growing-bean-to-bar-craft.html.

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