Kimberly and Priscilla of ’57 Chocolate: Transformative pioneers of Ghana artisanal chocolates
As Ghana prepares to celebrate yet another milestone birthday, its 60th no less, nothing quite personifies the nation’s economic story like its relationship with cocoa. Brought over to the then Gold Coast, by Tetteh Quarshie, cocoa became the fuel to power Ghana economically as the country raced to the summit of the world’s top cocoa producers’ charts. Cocoa of course continues to be transformed into some of the world’s finest confectionaries including Chocolates! There is a tinge of sadness in this story though. Hang out long enough in Ghana, the land of cocoa, and you’ll notice a deafening dearth of all things Ghana made chocolate. It is not unusual to meet a cocoa farmer who has never seen, much less tasted chocolate, often the product that symbolises their toil. It was, therefore, an “aha” moment for me when I heard of ’57 Chocolate Ghana, a chocolate manufacturer not based in Switzerland, Belgium or Germany but in my own beloved Ghana. I guess the excitement went up a notch when the founders, sisters Kimberly and Priscilla Addison, informed me that they have plans to open a chocolate boutique/shop in Accra’s golden triangle – East Legon. Until this plan comes to fruition, I shall continue to imagine the aroma of Ghanaian cocoa beans wafting in Accra and trying very hard not to go pressing my nose up against windows of imaginary chocolate shops in the city.
The biggest excitement of all, however, is that ’57 Chocolate has turned the chapter from a country that specialises in mere cocoa production to perhaps one that adds value by making the chocolates too! Admittedly this is by no means a tsunami but a significant and symbolic venture nonetheless that should not only be noted but celebrated. Who wouldn’t want to see the Black Stars, by our 70th birthday, producing chic and elegantly designed chocolates propelled by a dynamic and flourishing group of entrepreneurs bursting with creative artisan spirit in Accra and elsewhere in Ghana? After all the millions of tonnes of cocoa that now comes out of Ghana was triggered by a nondescript blacksmith who smuggled a paltry pod or two of cocoa seeds on a sojourn in Fernando Po now Equitorial Guinea to Ghana. This is Kimberly and Priscilla Addison’s first few steps in their journey of a thousand miles and it is an absolute pleasure to have them not only tell us about it but, also open their doors to us to get to know a thing or two about them!
Why chocolate? What was your “aha” moment?
Living in Geneva, Switzerland only two years ago, we thought it was strange that Switzerland is known for its chocolate but yet, does not have a single cocoa tree. Meanwhile Ghana, being the second largest producer of cocoa, grows the main ingredient in chocolate (cocoa) but produced very little chocolate itself. We saw a vast need for manufacturing in Ghana and across the continent of Africa. Generally, there is untapped potential in the manufacturing of chocolate across the continent of Africa. In Ghana, the candy shelves of supermarkets and malls are overflowing with foreign chocolate bars, some undoubtedly made with Ghana’s very own cocoa. On the other hand, Ghana is known for its cocoa, but not for its chocolate products. Having recognized all this, we were determined to create a Ghanaian brand that is reputable locally and internationally.
As the saying goes “just because you know my name does not mean you know my story!” What is the story behind the name ’57 Chocolate?
The name ’57 is short for 1957—the year of Ghana’s independence. 1957 was a revolutionary year for the country, not only because it was freed from colonial rule, but it is the year that gave birth to the nation’s “can do spirit.” Before 1957, industrialization in Ghana was non-existent, most goods were imported and not produced in the country. From 1957 onwards, the country saw a massive boom in its industrial infrastructure and products. Ghanaians were creating and developing their own industries and products. Ghana’s accession in 1957 led to the creation of industries like the Black Star Lines (Ghana’s first shipping company), Ghana Airways (the nation’s first national airline), and the Akosombo Dam (Ghana’s primary source of electricity). The name ’57 is meant to inspire a reawakening of Ghana’s 1957 “can do spirit.” It is a call and reminder that sometimes in order to go forward, we need to look back at our foundation—our roots. ‘57 Chocolate aims to inspire the people of Ghana, especially the youth to create and develop made in Ghana products of premium value.
Tell me about ’57 Chocolates! Will they change my mood, my day, my life, my world!?
We think so! When processing our chocolate from bean to bar, we try and keep the cocoa in its purest form. You will find that we do not use any preservatives or additives that are hard to pronounce. We have 6 signature flavors: dark (2 kinds including 88 percent baobab and 73 percent dark chocolate), milk, white, mocha latte (coffee flavor) and bissap (hibiscus flavor) chocolate products. We pair our chocolates with various ingredients like coconut, almond, peppermint and sea salt.
The artistry of your chocolates is undoubtedly inspiring. However, what has me salivating is the “afroklectic” bissap (hibiscus flavour) chocolate. What is the story behind this flavour and how would you describe it?
Having grown up in Dakar, Senegal we drank bissap often. It was truly a treat for us and our three older siblings. It was always in our fridge and never lasted more than 3 days. To us, bissap was the African version of Koolaid. For years we watched our mom steep copious amounts of hibiscus leaves in hot water with cloves, sieve and mix in sugar, vanilla, homemade ginger and pineapple juice. We wanted to somehow recreate this tangy but fruity taste from our childhood. We wanted to pay tribute to this drink that is cherished around the world. Bissap is also enjoyed in Ghana, but it’s popularly known as sobolo. In the Caribbean it’s called sorrel.
Would you agree that challenges are just opportunities in disguise and if so, are Ghana’s streets paved with them?
Yes! We completely agree. We wished more of the Ghanaian youth adopted this mindset. In fact, Ghana is full of problems (read: opportunities)—let’s be real about the situation. There are countless opportunities to use your creative mind to solve systemic problems, create jobs and make money.
Tell us about your private tasting sessions?
Of course! Aside from making and selling our handmade chocolate products, we offer private tasting sessions at our residence or at a venue of choice. Tastings are organized for a minimum of six people and a maximum of twelve at a cost of 45 cedis per person. Pricing for outside tastings events (held outside of ’57’s residence) are 55 cedis per person. For children, ages twelve and below the cost is 40 cedis. The duration of the session is one hour and thirty minutes. This includes a group knowledge game, an information session on how to make chocolate from the cocoa bean to the bar, an opportunity to taste 5 different flavors of our Adinkra chocolate, and finally a feedback session.
To book a tasting for you and your friends, please fill out this form on their website.
What has moving back to Ghana been like? Has it all been a stereotypically “An African City ” experience?
Moving back has been altogether phenomenal, challenging but yet satisfying. We grew up in Dakar, Senegal—so it’s interesting to note the differences between Francophone and Anglophone Africa.
By the way, we are avid fans of Nicole Amarteifio’s “An African City.” We must admit there are indeed some truths to the “African City” experience but in many ways our journey is extremely different. Generally returnees come back to the motherland for various reasons: love, money, a job opportunity, family, business, the list goes on.
We decided to return home to see if we could fill a unique void—that being manufacturing. Along the way many said it was impossible but here we are today.
Here at MyWeku Tastes we do travel and food best! What are the top three countries you’d like to visit just to sample their cuisine?
Kim: Thailand (I love Thai food!)
Peru (I’ve heard wonderful things about Peruvian food)
Kenya (I’ve had some Kenyan food, but I would love to taste more!)
Priscilla: Japan (I love sushi, especially eel—sea food in general gives me life!)
Thailand (Kim and I share a long-time love for Thai food, I would love to move to Thailand for 6 months and take several cooking classes)
Mexico: I’m slightly obsessed with tacos and guacamole. I just can’t get enough!
Which pan-African dish or dishes would you like to tell the world about and why?
Kim: Pilau (a beautifully spiced and flavorful Kenyan rice dish that is completely underrated). It definitely doesn’t get enough love like jollof.
Priscilla: Poulet or (chicken) Yassa— a very popular Senegalese dish. Tangy yet sweet, this dish is entirely made up of onions and chicken, served over a bed of couscous. It’s delicious and can also be eaten with rice.
If you had friends over to Ghana which foodie and tourist hotspots would you taken them?
We love welcoming our guest to our home with Ghanaian food—of course. We usually start them off easy with some homemade jollof , Ghana salad and shitor (or black pepper) on the side. We usually tell our friends who are visiting, shitor is the Ghanaian version of Siracha (an Asian hot sauce), but made of onions and dried shrimp. When eating out for Ghanaian cuisine, we’ll take our guests to Buka, located in Osu where the options such as for fufu, banku, red-red, waakye are endless.
We also really like Ivorian food, so Chez Clarisse (also located in Osu) is one of many hotspots we would take our guest for some grilled tiliapia, atteike (similar to couscous but made of cassava) and kelewele (fried sweet plantain).
Another spot we both enjoy is Simret—and Ethiopian restaurant located in Roman Ridge. Ethiopian food is one of our favorite cuisines. The experience, service and ambiance are phenomenal. It feels like you’ve been invited into someone’s home to eat a meal, as opposed to the normalcy of dining in some restaurant. At the very end of the meal you are given a choice of tea or Ethiopian coffee with chocolate cake. Yum!
Any tips for aspiring entrepreneurs?
We wish that we had known that there is really never a right time to start. Now is always the right time. It is important to know and understand the factors that can either benefit or hurt the operations of your business. There is a saying that goes: knowing your customer is paramount for business success. While this is true, we also believe knowing the business climate—where you work is of equal importance.