Kiwi Kathy Johnstone, 32, is the co-founder of Mirzam, a direct trading craft chocolate factory in Dubai’s Alserkel Avenue.
You come from a purely business background. How did you end up creating a chocolate factory?
Mirzam came about because of a long-term obsession with chocolate, from both myself and the other cofounders. We had travelled the world looking for good chocolate and buying a lot of chocolate. And as the industry has changed in recent years it has become possible for craft scale makers to exist on their own as a business, and that means there is even better quality chocolate from the farmer through to the wrapper.
What do you mean when you talk about craft chocolate?
None of the process is cheapened by using fermentation, or child labour, or power roasting the beans – it’s about getting the best product in the best way possible. To get the capacity needed to make a profit on selling cheap bars of chocolate in supermarkets, large manufacturers need to do things at a scale that means corners are cut and things are done badly. As the craft market has picked up though, the technology has become available that allows us to create our bars 30kg at a time, as opposed to a tonne a time. Over the past decade there have been more and more geeks like us making small-scale production equipment out of other machines – our bean roaster is adapted from a Turkish coffee roaster, for example. And as the level of geeking has improved all of these systems, it has allowed us to finally be here.
How difficult has it been to set up in a way that means you trade directly and fairly with your cacao farmers?
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