A Quiet Food And Drinks Revolution
African foodie lovers now have a drink of taste to sample with their African meals Baobab Bouye and Hibiscus Wonjo which comes from independent producer of exotic, healthy bottled drinks Eliza Jones her company is Chosan.
All we can say is that this is good news for those of us who are hungry for all thing to do with African culture, food and drink. Here we spoke to Eliza about the Chosan entrepreneurial venture...
How did it all start?
The idea started from visiting other countries and coming across food products on sale that had been processed locally, e.g. mango bars in Bangladesh and guava cheese in Brazil. In Gambia there are often seasonal food gluts as fruit and vegetable crops ripen but cannot be stored or processed. So producers aren't able to benefit fully from their hard work in growing these crops. Coming across food products in other countries, e.g. mango bars in Bangladesh and guava cheese in Brazil, that had been locally processed and were for sale locally, gave me the idea . In Brazil I was able to buy ice cream made from soursop and sapadilla, fruits I was familiar with from growing up in the Gambia and I realised there were opportunities for doing the same in the Gambia.
Where are your family from?
What African country do you visit the most and why should other people visit that country?
Naturally the African country I have visited the most, is the one I come from. People in the Gambia are genuinely friendly and hospitable. I am not just saying this because I am from the Gambia as I have visited many countries. Gambians are very easy going, warm, open and friendly people.
What food do you cook?
I tend to cook that doesn't take too long as I don't enjoy spending hours in the kitchen. Usually grilled fish with lots of stir fry or steamed vegetables.
Where can I find your drinks how do I get to buy them?
You can buy them online from www.thefoodmarket.com. In London they are available from selected health and wholefood shops, such as Nature Intended, Bumblebee Natural Foods . You can also order them with your meal at a couple of restaurants, Sesame in Convent Gardens, and Del Parc, Tufnell Park. They are also available from the Greenwich Pantry. Outside London they are available in Birmingham (Beckett Farm shop, Revital Health Store); Brighton (Infinity Foods); Chelmsford (from the Chelmsford Star Coop shops in Danbury, Writtle and Ingatestone) Dedham (Hall Farm shop); Edinburgh (Real Foods), Maidstone, (Health Matters); Nottingham (Out of this world).
What's your favourite African dish? and other African drinks?
I have so many favourites it is really difficult to limit myself to just one. There's Chep Djen, Mbahal, Yassa, all classic Senegambian dishes. I also like a good okra soup and fufu. I had delicious palm nut soup and pounded yam in Togo which I will also remember and I also have very good memories of the lamb couscous dishes made by my aunt's Lebanese neighbour.
For African drinks, nothing beats a glass of fresh palm wine. The dittach fruit also makes a very refreshing soft drink. I'm also quite partial to Amarula.
What's your least favourite African dish?
Difficult to say as I'm quite an adventurous eater. It's more a question of how the food is prepared than the actual dish itself. For example I have had African dishes that I haven't enjoyed because they are very bland.
Where would you like to see Chosan natural drinks in the next five years?
I would like it to be a familiar brand, - the brand of choice for consumers looking for healthy drinks that taste different and delicious at the same time. I would like to see the company reinvesting part of its profits in food processing technologies for food processing and working with producer groups in the Gambia to this up.
How did you come up with the brand name and marketing style?
I wanted a name that was meaningful and reflected the essence of what I was trying to achieve. Chosan means tradition, cultural heritage. Through our drinks we want African products to be more widely recognised and appreciated.
I was very lucky to meet an excellent design company PUUR Creative who were able to take the ideas I gave them and produce a distinctly different marketing style.
How did you perfect the tastes?
I tried the drinks out on lots of different people and tried to take on board their comments.
What sort of obstacles have you come across whilst trying to realise your dream?
Having sufficient financial resources.
Any African heroes?
I would include historical figures such Sundiata Keita and Mansa Musa, famous for their roles in consolidating the Songhia empire, achievements that have since been long forgotten. I also greatly admire the Wangari Maathai, particularly her courage and determination to make a difference and am very proud of her Nobel Peace prize.
Any chefs or cooks you look up to?
I don't look up to any particular chef or cook but watch the occasional programmes.
Can you recommend any African cook books?
Not really. I have bought a couple of Gambian cookbooks for my American nieces and nephews.
Do you have a recipe we can share?
Basboussa is a semolina and yoghurt dessert an Egyptian friend introduced me to and it has become one of my favourite recipes. It's very easy and quick to make and has been very popular with all the people I have made it for.
Find out more from chosan.co.uk information and where you can order. Further more if you are creating an African event why not contact Eliza Jones so that your can offer an African drink with your food. Follow @NaturallyChosan
Wonjo Hibiscus a tasty and refreshing soft drink.
Available in 5 delicious flavours; Original, Fresh Root Ginger, Moroccan Mint, Warming Spices, Essex Apples. Made from 100% natural ingredients
West Africa Cooks