„Why don’t you produce a chocolate from wild cocoa?“ danish chef and chocolatier Rasmus Bo Bojesen was asked by his wife three years ago. „She almost forced me to do it“ Rasmus says with a twinkle in his eyes, when asked about the story of his „Oialla“ chocolate. Since then, a lot happened and „Oialla“ probably is now one of the world’s best chocolates, at least when it comes to chocolate from wild cocoa.
However, the journey from „bean to bar“ was not easy. The right cocoa had to be found, connections to be established, journeys to be undertaken. Hence, it is even more impressive, that Oialla managed to introduce a product into the market just after one year of exploration and now already enjoys business since two years. Just recently, in May 2013, „Oialla“ launched their new product, the 78% percent cocoa chocolate.
But let’s go back, to where it all began. Bolivia. More precisely the village of Baures, in the eastern part of Bolivia, close to Brazil. This is where the wild cocoa, Beniano (named after the river Bení) grows. And, more importantly, Beniano only grows in this part of the world. Unlike other famous, industrially grown cocoa varieties such as Forastero, Trinitario or Criollo, the Beniano trees have never seen any fertilizers, pestizides or any other artificial substances. Even, cutting branches of other, bigger trees, overshadowing the Beniano trees, is out of question. „They just stand there, as they’ve always been doing. This is as ‚organic‘ as it can get“, says Rasmus. Thanks to the fact, that they are not exposed to direct sunlight , the Beniano trees produce cocoa, that doesn’t have the acidity of conventional plantation cocoa, providing the perfect basis for Oialla’s fantastic chocolate.
Besides being 100% organic, Oialla’s cocoa is also 100% fair. To follow fair practices, Oialla doesn’t need a label or certification. „We are working together with the local harvesters in a trustful and respectful manner. And we are paying a price that is above the common cocoa marketprice and even the Fairtrade price.“ Child labour is completely out of question, as is the use of chemicals and pestizides. Unlike cocoa plantations, where the cocoa is harvested on average 2-3 times a year, Beniano is harvested just once a year. „We only take what grows on the trees. It’s absolutely sustainable“, Rasmus reassures me. The beans are being fermented right on the spot for 3 days (conventional cocoa 5 days) and then shipped to Denmark, where Rasmus then gets going. No middle men, no wholesalers or such involved.
To actually make the chocolate, Rasmus just adds organic (fair trade of course) sugar. Nothing else. Only afer a while, he reluctantly confesses, that he had to be ‚forced‘ by a New York based star chef to create a milk chocholate. Having learned the art of chocolate making in the 1980ies from Monsieur Bernachon in Lyon, Bojesen absolutely knows, what he wants to create from the Beniano beans. And how to achieve it.
Over the time, Oialla has reached connaiseures and some of the finest chefs worldwide. Being a chef himself, Rasmus knows about the challenges of producing top-notch products and about the difficulties finding the right ingredients. Thus, it’s not surprising, that Michelin Star decorated restaurants from New York to Tokyo now rely on Oialla when it comes to making a difference.
Talking about marketing, this is almost as far as it goes. Direct contact to restaurants and business customers and the word-of-mouth that comes with it, is basically everything Oialla does. Sure, a little bit of PR is there as well, along with the essential website. But if you have a good product with a true story, then there is nothing much you have to do. Again, this is a good example for what just recently has been proven in a study: consumers want a transparent, honest story and want to know where the product comes from and who is behind it. No marketig fairy-tales anymore.
Absolutely no-fuss is, what Oialla does on product design. Oialla follows a clean, decent, scandinavian design that speaks for itself. The consumer products range comprises chocolate bars of 72% and 78% cocoa chocholate, one milk chocolate version and gift boxes. Oialla sells outside of Denmark and the US via selected webshops only.
In a nutshell: Oialla is a perfect example of how direct fair trade, high quality artisanal production and good marketing go together, combining people, planet and profit.