moonbean chocolate: proudly East African
Three years ago I took on the role of social responsibility manager for a large Ugandan cocoa exporter. Tasked with establishing a community library in Bundibugyo District, I spent my days surrounded by cacao trees - the smell of fermented and drying cocoa beans infusing every sun-baked minute. I saw the labour of the farmers and staff, and recognised that (almost) all of the product is shipped out of the country in raw unprocessed form. I learned that very few people here have ever tried imported compound chocolate, let alone real chocolate, made here in Uganda.
I talked to my wife, Denise, and she agreed there was only one thing for it: bean-to-bar chocolate, made at small scale, with the minimum of resources, right here - in the Pearl of Africa!
- dealing directly with farmers
- giving farmers access to the cocoa value chain
- celebrating Ugandan culture and produce
- contributing to environmentally-friendly initiatives
- providing opportunities for education
- creating jobs
- and bringing access to delicious chocolate!
the challenge of chocolate
While making chocolate is fundamentally a simple process – you just grind cocoa beans together with sugar – doing it well is a bit more complex.
With the help of my good friend and colleague Irene, I set about trying to make chocolate with the only readily available equipment I could find in Uganda, a meat-grinder!
The whole process, from sorting and roasting, through cracking and winnowing, to grinding and setting, took us a little over 4 hours… it was a pleasant way to spend a Sunday, and we were very pleased with the result - but it was by no means the quality we aspire to. To achieve really smooth, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate we would need some specialist equipment!
one piece at a time...
We are building moonbean chocolate gradually. Most of the money we have already raised for this venture from family and friends has gone into equipment purchase, moulding and packaging materials, and the initial produce to begin experimentation...
The key piece of the machinery for the craft chocolate maker is the grinder/refiner, because it serves a dual role. Not only does it grind the beans to the very small particle size needed for smooth chocolate, but the continuous movement over a period of hours also “conches” the chocolate. Volatiles that cause bad flavours are driven off during the 24 hour process, and the flavour of the chocolate is developed and refined at the same time as the texture. Until very recently, the grinder has been the one thing that was out of the reach of the home chocolate maker, but the fall in price of chocolate making machinery has enabled craft chocolate makers to enter a market that was once almost exclusively the domain of large industrial corporations.
The equipment has made a vast improvement to our products...
Early experimentation has been very encouraging, and we're convinced that we have the knowledge, determination, and panache to make a success of moonbean chocolate.
growing moonbean chocolate
Our dream is big. In the future, we envision a chocolate making facility offering bean-to-bar tours and chocolate making classes to visiting tourists, school-groups and other chocolate enthusiasts! But that's stage #3.
Today we ask for your help materializing stage #1 of this chocolate journey, which is bringing the brand to market in Uganda.
To accomplish this, we are seeking £6000 to cover our start-up costs, which will enable us to begin making moonbean chocolate on a commercial scale.
If we reach our funding goal we will be able to:
- purchase the first bulk of ingredients from our farmers in Bundibugyo
- pay for the energy we need to run our equipment
- buy quality packaging satisfying our eco-friendly ethics, to ensure and extend our products' shelf life
- cover distribution costs
- boost marketing campaigns
- pay fees to be able to sell our products at farmers' markets and other shows
- begin the registration process of moonbean chocolate as a social business
No one else in Uganda is doing what we’re doing. We want to make chocolate, make money, and make a difference in East Africa with our incredibly high-quality chocolate, while supporting other would-be chocolate makers in the region to do the same!
what you'll receive
Your contributions will go straight into enabling us to make chocolate, and we have some exciting and unique rewards lined up!
For those able to make smaller contributions, we have handmade Ugandan thank you cards, tote-bags made from a local cotton fabric called 'kitenge', and of course our finest chocolate! For those able to contribute a little more, we will make 100 bars of a limited edition chocolate inspired by our Kickstarters. And for the truly adventurous, we have the opportunity to visit our facility for a unique bean-to-bar chocolate making experience, whilst staying in our Chocolate Room in Kampala.
celebrate with moonbean chocolate in 2018 with one of four special packages, offering a unique treat for your guests at your next big event!
In a very real sense, your contributions are our lifeline. They will enable us to start producing chocolate commercially, and to continue to grow and produce even better chocolate in the future. Even the smallest of contributions will also make a big difference to our farmers - for every pledge above 10 pounds, a tree will be planted to sustain this crop in the future.
other ways you can help
If you would like to help but just can't contribute right now, there are other ways you can support us:
- Get the word out and make some noise about our campaign!
- Find us on social media and share away!
We have so much in store for chocolate lovers everywhere, and we’d love for you to help us make a real difference in East Africa! For more information about the future of moonbean chocolate, and how you could be a part of it, please follow us:
This project is part of http://kickingitforward.org
thank you for your support!
James & Denise xoxo
meet the moonbean team
why 'moonbean chocolate'?
Cocoa is grown across many districts of Uganda, and we source our beans directly from small-holding farmers in what is currently the most productive: Bundibugyo.
The district spans the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains a dramatic range that runs between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The explosive force of huge volcanic activity a mere 8 to 10,000 years ago has left a stunning cratered landscape in these foothills.
In Uganda, these mountains are popularly known as the ‘Mountains of the Moon’, an ancient term referring to a legendary mountain range in east Africa at the source of the Nile. We think the Rwenzori Mountains have a good claim to the name: boasting the third highest peak in Africa, and supporting glaciers, the waters from the Rwenzori Mountains are indeed feeding the Nile.
They also feed a huge number of cacao trees on the lower slopes. To our mind, the small-holding farmers we work with to produce the cocoa for our chocolate are growing… moonbeans!
Risks and challenges
Starting a business in Uganda will be different from starting a business in the UK or Canada. The actual registration of the company might take longer than expected due to the different ways of processing business start-up registrations in Uganda. Nevertheless we have become familiar with the systems in Uganda over our last 4 years in the country, and we have friends and associates ready to assist us if needed further.
We have the materials to produce all of the rewards at this very moment, but it could take a while. Kickstarter contributions will go a long way towards increasing production and making our production process easier, accelerating how quickly we can produce the reward chocolate.
If chocolate is a part of your reward, we will do everything possible to send it to you under the best conditions. Order at your own risk if you live somewhere where chocolate could melt in your mailbox! Please double-check all laws about receiving chocolate in the mail if you live internationally.
We're also excited to be working with a local tailor who made us the beautiful samples you see on this page... stay tuned for an update with her story.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)