After taking a few weeks off from cooking to re-group and get organized we are back in action! We are easing into a cooking schedule, finding ways to make the cooking sessions productive and efficient, and producing lots of products to sell in various markets! During the past couple of weeks we have gotten closer to mastering the formulas for chips and sweet popcorn and the products are looking great. We are trying new ways to cook the chips and one big change we’ve made is drying the potatoes after soaking them before we throw them in the pot to cook. This removes some of the excess starch and keeps them from becoming too dark! With sweet popcorn we are still trying different variations of the formula, but we think we’re on to something with using less sugar and eliminating the butter from the sugar coating mixture. If anyone of you folks who are reading are sweet popcorn experts, feel free to share some tips!
On our first day of getting back into the rhythm of cooking we were a little nervous because group members were slowly trickling in and we started an hour later than the scheduled time. We knew we had a lot of chips to make and it was going to require a lot of work from everyone. When six out of eight group members showed up (the other two were out of town) we were thrilled to share what we had learned about the chip-making process and start cooking! We were efficient and productive with everyone working on a different stage of the process. Before, we had been waiting until the next day to package, but since we had a system of a few people cutting and peeling, one person soaking, one person drying, two people cooking, we could package right then and there once the chips had cooled! Although it was a long (and hot!) day in the kitchen, we wrapped up with 39 big bags to sell in Korogwe and Dar.
We sent 24 bags to the farmer’s market that is starting up in Dar and they all sold at TZS 1,500! The next market is on November 16th and we are ready to cook and send even more bags! Check out the final products (with labels!)
In addition to enhancing the quality of chips, we are getting closer to perfecting the recipe for sweet popcorn and we made our first batch of big bags to sell in the markets. Before cooking with the group, we did a few trial runs to approximate measurements for all of the ingredients. It looks like our kitchen exploded with measuring cups, sugar and kernels, but we had fun!
Once we were happy with the end product we shared some with our partners so they could get a taste of what we would be doing together. Everyone loved the bright purple and pink food coloring and they all seemed confident that customers would love them! We produced 25 big bags to sell in Korogwe and about 25 smaller bags to try in Tabora. The process of making sweet popcorn is extremely simple and fast so we were able to cook five batches, package everything and clean our supplies in a total of two hours! This was a nice change of pace from some days where we don’t leave the kitchen until after dark! The group had fun shaking the pot of kernels over the fire as soon as they heard the popping (especially Mama Hassani).
And we think they were excited to see how easy and timely the process is. Most of the group attended the cooking session and they took turns learning the process!
We are in the process of building relationships with shop keepers in Korogwe and we have given four shops a handful bags to try selling at TZS 1,500. Since it’s a new and innovative product (popcorn is commonly sold but never before has sugar popcorn with food coloring been sold!) we think that we can charge a higher price. This is something that we are still learning as we continue to do market research and acquire business management knowledge. We are also going to make and sell 10 bags to test out at the November 16th farmer’s market in Dar. These are the final products that were sent to Korogwe:
In other news, Tabora’s very own fundi, Omari, recently completed the furniture for the kitchen and we just moved it all in! We think that having a table, shelving unit and four stools will help with the production process and make the kitchen feel more like a work space.
We are also extremely excited to share that the solar dehydrator is finished! We were ecstatic to see the finished product (so much so that we just had to give it a hug!) and we can’t wait to start drying fruits and vegetables such as mangoes, bananas, papaya, leafy greens and green peppers!