The Alfred Collective | Khakow Chocolate
Here at Alfred we believe in a more sustainable and conscientious way of living and that community gives meaning to the places we call home.
When searching for a partner to help us deliver these two initiatives through a virtual event, it was a sweet deal to meet Kahkow. We know they make delicious, single origin and sustainable chocolate, but there’s more to appreciate and learn about the brand.
For the love of chocolate, we asked Kahkow’s Manager, Nadia and Project Coordinator, Daisy a few questions:
How long has Kahkow been in business? Tell us about your history.
Kahkow is one of the latest projects at Rizek Cacao, a Dominican family enterprise built in 1905, led today by the fourth and fifth generations. The Rizek’s are cacao growers, processors and exporters who believe that discipline in production protocols, R&D and innovation are key to obtaining true quality, from tree to bar. The family owns several beautiful farms planting fine and flavor single varietals of unique pureness, and works directly with more than 6,000 small farmers and their communities, who are affiliated to the FUPAROCA Foundation — an independently managed nonprofit organization, founded and supported by Rizek Cacao, which provides technical assistance to its members.
Research and development have become the main pillars of Rizek Cacao since the turn of the century. This has allowed us to re-discover and breed unique cacao genetics in our country, creating a palette of flavors for chocolate makers and professionals to choose from. Kahkow started in the Dominican Republic in 2007 for various reasons. On one hand, the need to share our century-long know-how in cacao, but most important, to highlight the potential and quality of Dominican cacao. One of the ways we communicate our passion for cacao and chocolate is through education. We are focused on educating consumers and creating awareness of what gourmet/craft chocolate is. This is why we constantly experiment with exceptional profiles in chocolate.
The acceptance and growth of the brand in Dominican Republic allowed us to open the first Kahkow concept store and warehouse in the United States. Kahkow is a store, a workshop and a space that showcases the best in the farm-to-bar industry. It is a one-stop-shop for craft chocolate makers, and prosumers in quest of the finest ingredients for their creations. We offer to cacao and chocolate lovers the richness and the infinite possibilities of our farms in the Dominican Republic. Artisan chocolate makers will be able to source the finest and most sophisticated ingredients they have always craved; any combination of single varietal beans with origin denominations and special fermentation is possible. The store features a video wall where visitors can experience the fermentation process and cacao farms live from the Dominican Republic. It is also a factory space for chocolate makers and lovers to witness the whole process, to taste chocolate, and see the product being made.
Why is the community so important to the brand? Do you have partnerships with any hyperlocal brands?
We are committed to the community just as much as we are to growing high quality cacao. We’ve been able to continue our work in the US thanks to the incredible support of the communities around us. They’ve helped foster and strengthen our store and factory as Kahkow continues to evolve.
Two New York brands that have been collaborating with us from the beginning have been Oregano restaurant — located 2 blocks from us. They launched a vegan pizza dessert with our Chocodamia (dark chocolate & macadamia spread). The second is Fruition Chocolate Works — located in upstate New York. This award-winning chocolate maker works with our distinctive ingredients, like our cacao butter and one of our Denomination of Origin profiles — which is unique in the cacao industry. You can find most of their chocolates at Wholefoods.
We recently launched our Chocolate-Maker-in-Residency Program, where we invite fellow chocolate makers to use our space as an experimental chocolate lab where they can ‘interpret’ our cacao profiles using their recipes and techniques. We will be launching the first limited edition chocolate bar with our first guest, Michael Laiskonis — Creative Director at The Institute of Culinary Education, this fall.
Tell us what makes Kahkow so impactful to your community in the Dominican Republic.
FUPAROCA, Inc. (Foundation for Social Assistance, Rehabilitation and Organic Management of Cacao Plantations, Incorporated) — Rizek Cacao acts as a market access partner for the 2,500 farmers affiliated to the FUPAROCA foundation. These cacao farmers have worked with us for generations. In 1998, Hurricane George devastated small cacao farmers in the Dominican Republic. Rizek Cacao founded a non-profit organization that provides technical assistance to remote communities about proper planting of cacao, maintenance of farms, and preservation of natural resources, to ultimately increase the farmers’ yield and quality, which leads to receiving higher premiums for their products. FUPAROCA also helps farmers obtain and maintain certifications, such as organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, among others).Certifications represent a true commitment to a system of values and practices that are crucial to the sustainability of the cacao industry. They promote good agricultural practices, ethical-environmental responsibility, labor laws, sustainability, and traceability, while at the same time creating differentiation and value.
Why did you choose to plant roots in the Dominican Republic/Brooklyn?
New York was an interesting location and a challenging step towards bringing the concept to live outside of the Dominican Republic. We decided to open the first Kahkow store here because of the international and diverse community in the city.
Additionally, New York is one of the world’s most important culinary capitals. Two of the most important culinary institutes are in New York: The Institute of Culinary Education & The Culinary Institute of America, making it home to some of the best chefs in the world and most creative culinary minds.
We wanted to show the potential of Dominican cacao to everyone in the world, and so we thought that New York, being the global city that it is, was a perfect community and a perfect fit.
Who are your customers?
In 2 words: chocolate lovers. But for us this entails so much more. On one hand, chocolate makers and chocolatiers are able to purchase ‘ingredients’ from us in order to use in their creations and confections. On the other hand, enthusiasts can also enjoy the art of Dominican cacao in our retail store, where they can see a fully-operating chocolate factory. On any given day of the week, you’re able to walk in and see real chocolate-making and, of course, taste the variety of Dominican cacao represented in different chocolate bars and creations.
What excited you most about partnering with Alfred?
One of the things we’ve enjoyed most about working with Alfred is the fact that they are driven by means of experience and education. This is something that truly resonates with the way we do things at Rizek and Kahkow. We want people to value the hard work and effort we put into our products, and above all, the teams and farmers that have helped Kahkow continuously grow from an idea, to a fully-operational concept.
What are the plans for the future? Do you have expansion plans?
We would love to open a larger warehouse to meet the demands of all craft chocolate makers in the US. The Bean-to-Bar Market continues to expand every year, as more and more people start to value quality and flavor in chocolate, and it would be an honor, to us and to our country, to be able to supply quality cacao beans to artisan chocolate makers in Europe and Asia as well. (We are looking into expanding the Kahkow concept to Europe and Asia in the near future.)
How do you manage the two brands? What makes your brand different from others in the marketplace?
Over the past couple of years, we’ve witnessed the incredible growth of the craft chocolate industry in the US. We started to see the increasing need for high quality cacao that small and craft chocolate makers were having such a hard time finding. It was such a challenge for them to find quality in quantities that they could handle in their small or experimental factories. We wanted to serve this market that values quality and flavor so much. So we created the Essential Ingredients concept in order to supply unique cacao profiles with no minimum order quantities, directly traded with the cacao farmers we have worked with for generations. Not only do we offer infinite possibilities of flavors for their chocolates, but also assurance of consistent quality from sustainable and traceable to organic certified.