Did you hear the one about the chocolate factory in the desert? It’s called Mirzam and it’s the UAE’s first bean-to-bar chocolatier, now open in Alserkal Avenue.
For your very own Charlie and the Chocolate Factory moment head to Al Quoz’ new resident chocolate makers Mirzam – no golden ticket necessary. The team here actively welcome customers to look behind-the-scenes and see how the artisan bars are created.
While the bars cost more than you’re average Kit Kat (they start at Dhs32), the treats are a labour of love, and are made from start to finish within the four Al Quoz walls.
Check out the process here…
“While there is chocolate making in Dubai, companies tend to buy bulk compound chocolate produced in Europe,” explains Kathy Johnston, Chief Chocolate Officer at Mirzam (is this the best job title ever?). “The compound chocolate they’re bringing in is full of additional fats, harsh chemicals and emulsifiers.”
Visitors can pop in to buy some bars, sip on a surprisingly delicious cocoa tea or even peek behind the scenes at the chocolate-making process with a personal tour.
The tours technically run daily at 11am and 6.30pm, but if you ask nicely (and it’s not too busy) a team member can often bend the rules.
Mirzam specialises in pure dark chocolate, made from just three ingredients: cocoa beans, cocoa butter and unrefined cane sugar. Each bar in their Single Origin range – none of which are less than 65 per cent – are made using beans harvested by hand from plantations along the old spice route travelled by traders centuries ago.
“Each Single Origin bar contains beans from one plantation,” Kathy tells us. “That means you can taste the differences and the natural variations of cocoa – what the weather was like when the beans were harvested, the altitude, the genetic strain of the bean etc.”
The weird and wonderful spice combinations of the flavoured bars also follow the spice route, from coffee and cardamom to date and fennel (don’t knock that last one until you try it).
The homegrown company is full of little tidbits and ties to the UAE’s history. In fact, its name comes from the Arabic for ‘herald’– it’s a star that used to signal the start of the summer winds and, as such, the ripening of the dates.
The storytelling goes beyond the sweet stuff too. The designs on the wrappers were hand created by artists from near and far. Some feature illustrations of mythical sea monsters – inspired by the tales sailors would tell – while the patterns for its new limited Winter In Morocco range were created by a Doha-based water colour artist.
And great news: chocolate is good for you. According to the Mirzam team, dark chocolate contains endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine, which can give you a happy boost (without the caffeine hit of coffee) and cocoa is also high in antioxidants, which are said to fight free radicals in the body.
Like we needed more of an excuse to buy ourselves an advent calendar next month…
Mirzam, Warehouse 70, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai, daily 10am to 7pm. Tel: (04) 3335888. Taxi: Alserkal Avenue. facebook.com/MirzamChocolate