Midunu Chocolates’ bold truffles reinforce Ghanaian traditions – COOL HUNTING®
There is nothing shy Midunu chocolates. From their range of bold flavor profiles to their mission to empower African economies, this 100% Ghanaian chocolate company is a dynamic force with detailed execution. Each truffle, handcrafted by a small team of women in Ghana, infuses local herbs, teas and spices from the continent. Some of these infusions are expected, like floral South African rooibos tea or Kenyan coffee. Others, on the other hand, are daring. For example: lemongrass infused white chocolate or Cape Malay curry truffles, savory flavors that pair surprisingly well with sweeter notes. These daring combinations, imagined by founder Selassie Atadika, were designed as a way to travel across Africa. In fact, the name of the company itself is an invitation to explore. “Midunu” translates to “eat” in Ewe (Atadika’s mother tongue) reflecting his greater desire to share the beauty of his culture.
The spices and chocolate chili may surprise some people, but these flavors are part of the charm of Midunu. Not only are the chocolates a testament to Atadika’s culinary expertise, but they also play a larger role in its philosophy to elevate its heritage. “When we were growing up in New York,” she tells us, “my mother had friends at her house. One day my brother asked him, “Why do you never make Ghanaian food? And my mother said, ‘I don’t know if they would be comfortable.’ My mom didn’t feel comfortable having guests to eat with their hands. So there has to be a space where we can all be who we are without having to hide. By making chocolates infused with punchy spices, Atadika proudly puts African cuisine at the forefront, overturning conventions of chocolate making while she’s at it. “I’m done playing it safe,” she said.
Founded in 2014, the company began as the culmination of Atadika’s work with the United Nations. With the United Nations, she traveled to 43 different countries, observing how food plays a vital role in the foundation of society. She tells us: “I was able to discover the flavors, the recipes and the ways of eating from these different countries, and I really said to myself: ‘How can I share this with Ghanaians and other Africans who do not. couldn’t travel as far as I have? ‘”The answer was in chocolate.
“I felt it was really unique because people know chocolate,” Atadika continues. “Regular, tasty food can be overwhelming for people. So the idea was: how do I take something that people know and something that people don’t know and put them together in a space that allows for conversation? As a dessert enjoyed around the world, chocolate has become the perfect mediator between cultures. For some, these tasty truffles serve as an entry point to learn more about Africa. For Africans who grew up with these spices, Midunu allows them to see their food in a new way. “With the issue of colonialism and extraction, there is this feeling that cocoa beans are a commodity, not a good product. I think it’s a good product. The way we show how it can be a high quality product from an African country changes that narrative. I like being able to give us back that dignity. I try as much as possible to make sure I tell the stories behind the ingredients.
Telling a West African tale begins with the main ingredient: cocoa beans. Sourced from cocoa farmers in Ghana, these beans carry the distinctive chocolate notes exclusive to the country’s terroir. Another West African taste comes from the bean fermentation process, which follows a Ghanaian tradition based on plantain leaves. During this seven-day fermentation, the beans are sandwiched between the leaves, the fruit’s sugar is extracted, and the natural bacteria are broken down until the beans dry in the sun. At this point, Atadika and her team of women chocolatiers buy the couverture from a licensed purchasing company (as the cocoa beans are centralized by the Ghanaian government), where they add their adventurous infusions.
For Atadika, working with an all-female team is an essential part of the production, as it helps create new and sustainable livelihoods for the women and the traditions they used to participate in. “For example, for dawadawa [a fermented locust bean seasoning] to have survived the test of time, the women who ferment it and their communities must have the means to use these products in a modern way with exposure to new economies, ”says Atadika. “The more people who eat dawadawa from northern Ghana, the longer these livelihoods continue. One of the things I have realized in a lot of my travels in Ghana and parts of the continent is that these traditions are being lost. For example, Maggi Cubes [bouillon cubes] flooded the market. So a lot of people are using some of these products and traditional cultures are losing popularity. Many young women in the communities do not want to learn the trade. This is how we support it. This is also why their next line of truffles includes dowadowa, from a community of slow food women.
The amplification of women is also reflected in the packaging of chocolate. Each iteration of chocolate is named after powerful women in Atadika’s life, known either personally or from history. Adowa, a dark chocolate truffle filled with milk chocolate ganache infused with five West African spices, is also the name given to girls born Monday in Ghana as the founder’s mother.
Cultural references like these also permeate the aesthetic of truffles. Glancing at the six-piece truffle box, one can’t help but notice the vibrant selection of colors and patterns on display. These ornaments are designed by Atadika, who based each design on textiles and motifs from the region. Once an ingredient has been chosen as a flavor, the chef reflects on the country or context that inspired the choice. Then, she selects a textile in this place. Take, for example, the Nandi truffle which is based on a liqueur from South Africa. Its accompanying design features the South African textile motif shweshwe, a fabric originally used during apartheid to denote black workers, but over the years has since been reclaimed by black South Africans. Visually and sensorially, Nandi captures this story of ownership. “The names are there; the drawings are there, they all allow you to learn a little more about the continent in a digestible way, ”she explains.
Going forward, the founder hopes to grow the business until it’s all bar bean, a tricky feat given legislative complications in Ghana’s centralized cocoa industry. Yet Atadika aspires to continue to share her culture and foster her community’s market. “I would love to see it expand beyond the United States into other international markets, just so I can share that education and so these traditions can stand the test of time,” she tells us. Despite its commitment to honor tradition, Midunu is reinventing chocolates for the future of Africa.
All images are courtesy of Midunu Chocolates