Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Black Woman-Owned, Askanya Chocolates, Offers Haitian Made Culinary Confections

Askanya Chocolates
Askanya Chocolates

*For chocolate lovers, there is nothing better than indulging in that culinary escape. For those who enjoy supporting Black-owned businesses as well as that sweet treat, you can find both with Askanya Chocolates, a Black Woman-Owned enterprise. Connoisseurs of the confection can get the taste of Haiti as Askanya Chocolates is the country’s first and only premier bean-to-bar chocolate company with delectable candies made exclusively with Haitian cocoa, which boasts as some of the highest-ranked chocolate in the world.

The cocoa beans are then handcrafted into bars by women in Haiti. The company assures that their all-natural ingredients are directly sourced from a network of 3,000 Haitian Farmers who provide the necessary cacao, as well as sugar cane, limes, oranges, and cashew nuts. From an entrepreneurial side, the company provides direct revenue opportunities to Haitian farmers located in rural areas. With the price ranging from $7.65 and up, their gluten/soy/nut and preservative-free goodies are ideal for health-conscious chocolate lovers. There are also multi-sized dairy-free and vegan options.

Having started such an ambitious venture into the competitive world of confections, EURWEB spoke with Corinne Joachim Sanon Symietz, CEO of Askanya Chocolates to get some insight into their success story.

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Corinne Joachim Sanon Symietz - Co Founder of Askanya Chocolates
Corinne Joachim Sanon Symietz – Co Founder of Askanya Chocolates

EURWEB – How is the handcrafted procedure special in making the bars?

One thing that differentiates handcrafted and all-natural bars is that they have no preservatives and chemical in them. You can name all the ingredients (cacao, lime, orange, cane sugar), without needing a bachelor in chemistry. You are being good to yourself and tasting something super delicious.

EURWEB – What makes Haitian cocoa superior in quality?

In many Latin-American and South American countries, cacao is grown in large properties, made of acres and acres of cacao trees. In Haiti, we mostly have tropical gardens; where the farmers, mainly subsidence farmers, will have a little bit of everything, first for his/her consumption, second as a potential source of income –  his/her garden grows some coffee, cacao, banana, mango, grapefruit, vetiver, etc. Hence, the Haitian cacao tend to take the taste of the fruits/veggies surrounding it – explaining the different nutty, fruity notes you find in our different bars.

Askanya Chocolates - Mini Bars
Askanya Chocolates – Mini Bars

EURWEB In the history of Haitian foods and desserts, many are renowned as delicacies, how does Askanya Chocolates pay homage to that culture’s culinary legacy?

Well, Askanya Chocolate is the first bean-to-bar chocolate company in Haiti – because consuming chocolate bars were not a Haitian custom per sé. Haitian cacao is mostly used to do hot chocolate drinks, delicacy taken on mornings, and especially on weekends. It’s made by adding chopped 100% cacao ball, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla and lime zest to boiling water. The mix is stirred until completely melted. Then the sugar and the evaporated milk are added. Of course, you can use a dairy-free milk option or a creamer.

EURWEB As a Black-founded and Black women-led company, are there any challenges in facing the global confectionery market?

It’s “interesting” that the key ingredient in chocolate is grown predominantly in countries inhabited by Black people and other minorities; however, very few of the producers/manufacturers are BIPOC. And we all know that the final producers, manufacturers, retailers retain a bigger share of the revenues. I/we wanted to break this vicious circle –   with Askanya Chocolates – how about not only exporting our beans, but also producing a finished world-class product – and empowering young Haitian women who never made chocolates.

Askanya Chocolates
Askanya Chocolates

EURWEB What was the inspiration behind the name?

A love story, actually. My (Corinne’s) husband is German, and we both were living in NYC. As I/ she wanted to create a business in my/her home country Haiti, he had two conditions – first I/she shouldn’t be in Haiti more than 6 months per year and second the business should be called like his hometown in Germany – Ascherlesben in German, Ascania in Latin and Askanya in Haitian Creole.  In its Latinized form “Ascania,” it connects to the ancient figure Ascanius. Just as Ascanius became the legendary King in Roman mythology, we are sure Askanya will become the Queen of chocolate in her new Caribbean home.

EURWEB Who are some of the other members, founders, and supporters of the company you’d like highlighted and mentioned?

When I started my wild idea of creating a business with 3 main goals (money for farmers, money for young adults, money in the countryside), without really thinking of making money for myself, the first person that was behind me was my husband. He’s the best husband in the world (you can write that). My best friend Gentilé was also a life-saver: as a Haitian-American, I couldn’t incorporate a business without having a Haitian person. So Gentilé becomes a de-facto owner. And I can’t do it all without my amazing team of chocolate makers – these ladies are amazing and the real MVPs; special shoutout to our farmers for trusting us and always providing superior crops, all organic.

EURWEB How large are your production facilities and factories, and are there plans for others in other regions?

Our production facility in Ouanaminthe, North-East, Haiti can produce up to 16,000 (2oz) bars per month. We are not looking right now to move outside of Haiti as our goals have been to create revenues opportunities for Haitian farmers, job opportunities for young Haitian adults and local decentralization – jobs in the countryside. We currently have 12 employees, all but of 1 of them are women, we work with a network of more than 3,000 farmers for our ingredients (cacao, artisanal cane sugar, lime, orange, cashew nuts) and we have a couple of dozens of seasonal contractors.

Askanya Chocolates
Askanya Chocolates

EURWEB Are Haitian deforestation issues improved by the farmer’s cultivation of the crops and natural resources they provide?

Cacao grow on trees, so definitely, when at Askanya Chocolates we are able to provide a living wage (not a fair price, but a living price) to our farmers for their cacao, then these cacao trees become more valuable to them as tree than as charcoal and help keep our country green

EURWEB How long have some of these farmers been cultivating crops, and is it land that they and their families own?

We don’t have exact statistics but the majority of the farmers we work with are either parcel owners or property managers. The money we pay for the crops go directly to them, without a third party.

EURWEB Besides chocolate, does the company plan to present any other confections or products in the near future?

We are planning to expand our lines and offer more assortment of chocolates, with more inclusion – spices, fruits, nuts and other ingredients all sourced in Haiti

EURWEB Which countries are your best sellers so far? 

We currently sell mostly in the USA – but ship worldwide. I would say, more than a country, our clientele is made of real chocolate lovers – people who care about ethically sourced chocolates, all-natural, made at origin; and of foodies with a conscience – people who care about what they eat and where their products come from.

They ship from the USA, so delivery orders are fast and effortless as well from https://askanya.ht/

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