Chocolatier Explores African Flavour in Sustainably Sourced Treats

From sampling delicious treats around the world to living on the same road as a cocoa roasting factory in Cote d’Ivoire, Ana Maria Panait has immersed herself in the world of chocolate production. With a love for confectionery and a passion for travel, she has created a brand that not only indulges our tastebuds, but one that is an ode to the rich flavours that Africa has to offer. Born in Romania and now based in Joburg, the globetrotter’s curiosity has led her to communities of cocoa growers in Ghana, Uganda, El Salvador and Cote d’Ivoire, further fuelling her determination to create a chocolate that is fresh, unprocessed, and as close to the pure taste of cocoa as possible. This commitment to quality and authenticity became the foundation of Rrraw.

One of Rrraw’s remarkable characteristics is its exploration of flavour. Ana Maria’s adventurous spirit and willingness to experiment have given rise to truly unique chocolate creations, each telling a story that weaves together the diverse corners of the globe. The latest addition to the Rrraw collection is the Spekboom flavour which is an indigenous South-African plant with rare and unique qualities, favoured by black rhinos, elephants and kudus. Its leaves are edible, have a zesty lemon-like taste and are also surprisingly high in Vitamin C. This proudly South African chocolate is a favourite with those with a love for zesty flavours.

Ana Maria’s travels have been the wellspring of inspiration, leading to the creation of her distinctive Coconut White range. This range is more than just chocolate; it’s a journey through various cultures and culinary traditions, from a limited-edition African white chocolate infused with traditional West African ingredients like moringa and millet to a creation inspired by her stay in the Philippines. But it’s not just about flavours; it’s also about textures and crunch, ensuring that no Rrraw chocolate bar is ever boring.

What also makes Rrraw stand out in the world of chocolates is its unwavering commitment to quality. In the dark chocolate range, Rrraw uses Fine Flavour beans, recognized as one of the top 50 beans in the world by the Cocoa Excellence Awards. These beans are roasted at lower temperatures to preserve the original properties of cocoa, resulting in a distinct and rich flavour. In the white chocolate range, Rrraw takes pride in offering what Ana Maria considers the best dairy free white chocolate in the country. The ingredients are simple, organic, and full of flavour, with no additives or unfamiliar elements.

At the heart of Rrraw lies a dedication to sustainably sourced African ingredients. The brand collaborates with a certified B-corp in Uganda to source cocoa, ensuring fair compensation for everyone involved in the process. This is especially important as a study by Oxfam revealed that up to 90 percent of African cocoa farmers do not earn a living income, meaning they cannot afford enough food or other basics such as clothing, housing and medical care. Ana Maria firmly believes that business can drive positive change in Africa by creating sustainable livelihoods for cocoa farmers and the communities they support.

Ana Maria embarked on her Rrraw journey just before the challenging times of 2020. The lockdowns presented hurdles that tested her determination. Originally planning to offer a unique 85% cocoa, no milk, and no sugar chocolate, she had to pivot when the market demanded something different. Adapting to customer preferences while staying true to her vision was a delicate balancing act.

Looking ahead, Ana Maria envisions Rrraw as an international brand that not only celebrates the labour, foodie community, and unique ingredients of Africa but also puts the continent on the world map for fine-craft chocolate. She dreams of educating the world about the diverse flavours and quality of ingredients emerging from Africa. Rrraw is more than a chocolate brand; it’s a conduit for Africa to share its culinary wonders with the world. When asked what inspired the name Rrraw, she fondly stated; “Cacao is a gift to humankind from the Amazon jungle, which is why cacao grows best in forest areas. This is why the brand Rrraw is positioned as ‘chocolate from the ‘ jungle’ It is wild at heart and not afraid to experiment with flavours from the continent of Africa.”

In celebrating Ana Maria’s journey and Rrraw, we invite you to embark on a flavourful adventure that pays homage to Africa’s diverse and rich traditions. As we savour each bite of Rrraw chocolate, we recognise that it’s more than just a sweet treat—it’s a celebration of a local brand with a global vision and a cause that resonates with hearts and taste buds alike.

To find out where you can purchase Rrrraw click here.

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