At a chop bar (local eatery) at the barracks opposite the seat of government, Jubilee House, in Accra, a man named Solomon gets himself preoccupied with one thing. Pounding of Fufu!
Solomon holds a pestle, its base as huge and broad as the foot of an elephant. He pushes and pulls in thrusting the pestle hard into the heavy mould of cassava which is steadily forming into fufu. It is 9:15am on Friday, November 12, 2021, and already customers are either seated or standing waiting for the food to be served at the unnamed chop bar. Well, at times, customers refer to the place by its owner’s name; Ama Nyame.
Among the customers that have thronged Ama Nyame’s chop bar today are Nana Okyere Awurukuo and his bosom friend Kwame Asante. They both work with Onua FM/TV as news readers. For them, if Ghana is cocoa and cocoa is Ghana then they equally play this game of names juxtaposition with fufu too. They are fufu or rather, fufu is them.
For close to six (6) years I have known them, a single day does not pass without the two eating fufu. Even on weekends when they do not meet, Mondays become ideal to recount the sort of soups they enjoyed with fufu in their respective homes. That is how staunch Nana Okyere and Kwame Asante are in the ‘worship’ of that popular Ghanaian traditional food. Being their friend, I have also been baptized in the fufu for breakfast daily routine. When they order, I also order mine and I usually like it with tilapia ‘light soup’ or palm nut soup with goat meat.
In January 2020, I received a hamper. It was from Clement Opoku Gyamfi, a friend who worked at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) who now serves as the District Chief Executive of Amansie South in the Ashanti Region. That New Year hamper contained assorted cocoa products including Royale Natural Cocoa Powder, Alltime, Choco Delight (chocolate spread) among others all locally manufactured by the Cocoa Processing Company Limited. I shared these products which were in double folds each with my friends (Nana Okyere and Kwame Asante).
When I first took the hamper from a young man Clement Opoku had sent to my workplace, TV3, I said to myself that will be a good reason to take some hot chocolate in the mornings so I could go for my fufu in the afternoon. In my mind, I had changed my diet for breakfast and I would convince my friends too.
One of the cocoa products I took home that day really caught my attention. It was the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder! On its container was a simple but captivating inscription: “Best without sugar and milk. Best drank hot”. If there is a cocoa product, locally manufactured, and one does not need sugar or milk to make it sweet then it was certainly what I needed to wrap up my day after the hustling and bustling. I diligently continued to read the Royale Cocoa container. This time, my concentration was on how to prepare it as it was my very first time ever seeing the product.
“To make a hot or cold drink, put two (2) or more heaped teaspoonfuls of Royale Natural Cocoa Powder into a cup. Add a little hot water and stir. Top up with more hot or cold water,” the label read and I did exactly that. In fact, if you care to know, I took a big mug and I scooped “more heaped teaspoonfuls” of the powder as the label recommended I could take.
I then relaxed and ensured my television was locked at my favourite channel, Aljazeera, and started to sip the hot chocolate the way Kwame Despite or Aliko Dangote would do with swag. When I had my first sip, my dear reader, I almost shouted “Jesus!” but for the fear that my landlady and co-tenants would ask if everything was okay with me, I swallowed my ‘pain’. The Royale Natural Cocoa Powder that I for long imagined was so sweet tasted as though I chewed a bile duct. It was so bitter that I nearly cursed whoever wrote the label of the product for telling me it is “best [served] without sugar or milk.”
I was not alone in that bitter experience. “My first time tasting the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder was like a thug of war in my mouth. It was so bitter that I had to add sugar to it but that could not give me the appetite to continue consuming it,” says Kwame Asante. For Nana Okyere, he had invited a friend over to his house for breakfast one morning and they prepared hot Royale Cocoa.
“My friend nearly beat me up, saying I invited him over to give him quinine tonic to drink. But the truth is,” Nana Okyere told me, “I had been told the product was bitter but I did not expect that level of bitterness.” That is the plain truth with the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder. It is that bitter!
I abandoned mine for a while and went on to consume the Alltime and the others that had sweet taste. Then in 2021, I decided I will not consume any sugared/sweetened cocoa product. Right from January 2021, I made royale cocoa my companion without even considering its rich health benefits as a motivating factor. I just wanted to cut down on sugars. In consistently consuming the product, I had overcome its bitter taste and I was happily into it. In June 2021, I went to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) to do some research on cocoa. I was received by one Kofi Adu, a brother to my friend Nana Okyere.
When Mr. Adu came to pick me in the morning from a guesthouse I was lodging, he took me on a tour through CRIG. I was so much impressed with the community seeing that they have their own dam that supplies them water without relying on the Ghana Water Company. CRIG’s gulf park, fuel station, cocoa farms, beautiful layouts and serene environment and the other amenities are fantastic sites to behold. If I would not be (mis)taken for exaggeration, I hardly believed I was in Ghana but there I was at Tafo in the Eastern Region!
When Kofi Adu brought me to the heart of CRIG (the administrative area), he took me to a breakfast stand. There, they sold assorted cocoa products every morning to the staff and visitors. “Solo, you see, there are a lot of different cocoa products here which are all good but I want to buy you the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder,” he said.
“Really? Why so, Mr. Adu?” I asked.
“Its health benefits are enormous,” he said buying me a bottle of already prepared hot royale cocoa. We parted ways to meet later in the day. He had headed for work while I went to the CRIG library.
My aim for going to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana’s library was not necessarily to research into the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder. However, the sort of ‘magical powers’ Kofi Adu told me the product offers forced me to spend time to read about the properties of raw cocoa beans as that mainly make up the ingredients.
In my readings, I realised that unsweetened cocoa helps in reducing the chances of one getting diabetics and also helps in fighting other diseases and conditions. For instance, Donald F. Smith in his paper “Benefits of flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products for mental well-being: A review” indicates that unsweetened cocoa containing ‘flavanols’ – property of cocoa – has the ability to control mood disorders.
“Perhaps daily intake of appropriate amounts of flavanol-rich cocoa-derived products can benefit both cardiovascular function and mental well-being of subjects in traditional antidepressant regimes,” Donald Smith wrote in his concluding remarks.
Also, for Tabernero et al. (2006) in their paper: “The antioxidant capacity of cocoa products: contribution to the Spanish diet,” consumption of cocoa-flavonoids (which could be found in the royale cocoa) affirms it prevents chronic diseases especially cardiovascular diseases. My friend Nana Okyere had learnt the benefits of unsweetened cocoa after he says he once listened to the Chief Executive Officer of the COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo talk about the antioxidant properties of cocoa.
“He [Joseph Boahen Aidoo] said it helps in anti-aging and also helps in blood circulation in the body,” Nana Okyere said. After my return from CRIG, I intensified my consumption of the royale cocoa and today it is one of my best drinks.
In fact, my CRIG friend Kofi Adu had mentioned that ladies who complain of menstrual pains could take the royale cocoa to alleviate their pain. Before getting to know this information, two lady friends had always told me how unbearable their menstruations were. I encouraged them to get at least a bottle of the royale cocoa to see if the pains would reduce. I first got them aware the drink was bitter and that they should endevour to take it. That took them close to two months to try it for the first time. As I write this piece, they both attest to me they experience no pain in their respective menstruations.
If the thing is good but only bitter, as it is expected of unsweetened cocoa, then we all must focus on how beneficial it is to our health and eschew the sweetness we crave for. This is the resolve of another colleague Maxwell Otoo. Maxwell also works with Onua FM/TV and he says, he once interviewed an official of the Cocoa Processing Company who spoke profoundly about cocoa royale.
“I have since not taken any other cocoa powder from any other manufacturer aside the royale cocoa. The CPC official made it known to me that the royale cocoa product boosts our immune system. Consuming our own Ghana cocoa, I can tell you that I have not been going to hospital as I used to,” said Maxwell.
Today is December 31, 2021, and the time currently is 3:28pm. Already, I have seen news stories that New Zealand, Australia and Japan have said goodbye to 2021. In few hours’ time too, Ghana will bid 2021 a goodbye. If there is anything I would want you to take along into 2022, it is the Royale Natural Cocoa Powder.
If, indeed, health is wealth then you cannot leave this product behind. Religiously consume it in the New Year and do not forget to write me, the unofficial ambassador of Royale Natural Cocoa Powder, a feedback of the product. Among my friends (aforementioned), fufu breakfast is popular. But, that narrative is gradually changing. If we do not take Royale Natural Cocoa Powder in the mornings, it is a must when we get home.
There is much satisfaction consuming Ghana’s rich cocoa and getting in addition the health benefits it carries.
The writer is a broadcast journalist. Views expressed herein are solely his, and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of this media organisation whatsoever.