When he moved to Canada on a student visa at the age of 17, Shola Ekperigin says his first group of friends were from all over the world. “I really loved learning about new cultures, new people and what was really interesting was not just seeing our differences but just how similar we were.”
That’s how Ekperigin’s shop, My Sweet Sweet World, came to be. A self-taught chocolate maker, Ekperigin takes pride in using ingredients from his home. The cocoa beans he uses come from Nigeria, purchased by his father and sent up. He says he is the only Canadian chocolate maker to use cocoa beans from Nigeria. “Bringing in this new flavour variety, bringing in beans that come from my mom’s home village … I have that passion working with the beans,” he says.
Perhaps that is why he takes such pride in his product. And also why he “threw out the rule book” and learned chocolate making his own way; through trial and error. “My inspiration was, I wasn’t satisfied with what we had out there,” he says. “You either had candy that was filled with preservatives, sugar, things that were just not good for you, or you had chocolates that were just unaffordable or unattainable.”
And so his store sells artisanal chocolate at reasonable prices. Which is a rarity in a small town like Hagersville. “It’s a small space but it’s an amazing local enterprise,” says the 33-year-old shop owner. “I love to run it the way it is. I want to keep high-quality artisanal chocolate cheap and affordable.”
He also want to spread his love and joy with chocolate – “I wanted to send a message that’s just more than chocolate,” he says. “I try to incorporate multiculturalism into my chocolate.” Every chocolate bar Ekperigin makes at his shop is imprinted with a continental map. And each of the 10 flavours he offers is packaged with its own theme like joy, peace, love or laughter in a variety of African, European and Indigenous languages. Including four of the Six Nations languages — which Ekperigin says customers have helped him to translate — to acknowledge that Hagersville is on Haldimand Treaty territory. He hopes to include Seneca and Tuscarora as he makes more flavours.
Find out more about how this sweet shop found itself in a small town like Hagersville in your Good News Story of the Day, here, but here’s a quick hint – Ekperigin said “The moment we drove and we saw the Grand River I said ‘this is where I want to be.'”
He also said “I’ve always been fascinated by multiculturalism and I think it embodies what I am. It embodies what Canada is.” And he is right, that is very Canadian.
Story and Image from the CBC.