Grains of paradise, Red rooibus tea...These don't sound like the building blocks of a child's education or the staples of a nutritious meal, but when placed in the stirring bowl of chocolatier Jonathan Grahm, that is precisely what it means for women and children in Darfur.
Working with Relief Beads for Darfur, Compartes Chocolatier, Grahm's boutique LA chocolate company in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles raises money for the troubled area with an African collection of truffles: Chocolates for a Cause. The handmade chocolates are available in a five or ten-piece set, and each set comes with a Relief Beads bracelet, which is handmade from sand in Africa. The proceeds from the sales are donated to help humanitarian nonprofit agency Relief International's efforts in Darfur, where the organization operates the second largest refugee camp, administers medical care at several clinics, and funds educational costs for thousands of children.
In 2007 alone, R. I. supported tens of thousands of refugees in Darfur, where two and a half million people have been forced to leave their homes since the conflict started in 2003. "About a year ago, I started to sell the bead bracelets at Compartes," says Grahm. "A percentage of the sale price went to building shelters for refugees, as well as providing meals for them. [Relief Beads] met with me one day and showed me a building that our contributions had helped build. After that, I wanted to do more and began to create the African collection." Grahm locked himself in a hotel room for three days with a stack of African cookbooks, looking for new tastes, new places to let the tongue wander.
"I was sort of a mad scientist about it," he laughs. "I like to make two-and three-dimensional flavors- make chocolate savory when you don't expect it. I wanted the collection to taste of the earth, to present a new landscape for the taster." Three days later, Grahm emerged with five new chocolate truffles for the collection: cardamom and coconut, grains of paradise and African mango, caramelized plantain, African cacao bean, and organic red rooibus tea- each one finished off with a colored imprint of the African Continent.
Assuming that his chocolates will help to construct more buildings in Zam Zam, a large refugee camp in Darfur, Grahm shows that sometimes, when the cause is right, truth is best candy-coated.