You’re the general manager of a pioneering camel milk chocolate factory. Tell us about your background.
It’s always been about chocolate. My first job was at Stollwerck in Cologne – founded in 1839, it’s one of Germany’s oldest and most well-known chocolate factories. I really harnessed my skills during the 13 years that I worked there. I was a manager of Cologne Chocolate Museum – it’s an amazing place that attracts approximately 600,000 visitors a year. I am forever learning about chocolate, and it never ceases to fascinate me.
When was Al Nassma established and how did you end up working here?
The company started in 2008. It really all began with the existence of Camelicious – the world’s first, state-of-the-art camel dairy, which started producing great milk products. The team and I knew we could already make good chocolate with good milk and we liked the idea of being able to make something new, outstanding and special. Given the beautiful virtues of camel milk, we’ve been able to do that.
Quality is your top priority at Al Nassma. How do you ensure excellence?
We focus on craftsmanship and old-fashioned, hands-on ways of making chocolate, which gives us complete control over everything in the process. We use expensive, good machinery to make sure we get everything out of the beans and the milk. And we use high-quality ingredients that are free of any cheapeners, aromas, preservatives or additives like soy lecithin, palm oil and so on. Our products are made to be enjoyed, not stored forever. They may cost more than others, but that’s because they’re expensive to make. Camel milk powder is limited and not cheap – one camel can only produce seven to eight litres of milk a day. We decided that to be able to compete in the market, because our base ingredient is costly, we’d have to go over the top in terms of our offering, the ingredients we use and our packaging.
Tell us about your range of chocolates.
We have a variety of bars, with traditional favourites such as filled chocolates and nut pralines, which were actually invented in the 17th century in France. We also make hollow figures out of chocolate, like our signature camel or the Burj Khalifa. I think we’re the only ones making hollow figures in the UAE, but it’s a well-established industry in Europe that dates back centuries. Overall, we present an Arabic or Middle-Eastern take on things and we produce clean chocolate made from a base of just five ingredients. We enhance our products with pistachios, hazelnuts, dates, Arabica coffee and more.
In addition to using local camel milk, where do you source your ingredients from?
All over the world. Our cocoa beans come from Africa – mainly from Tanzania; our pistachios are from Aleppo, Syria; we source real vanilla from Madagascar; our roasted hazelnuts come from Turkey; and we use real acacia honey from Europe.
How much chocolate does Al Nassma produce?
We have the capacity to produce 100 tonnes per year. We make 300kg of plain chocolate every 12 hours, or 600kg per day. We’re not small, like an artisanal chocolate maker, nor are we like one of the chocolate giants making 10 tonnes per shift.
What does camel milk chocolate taste like to you?
It’s a bit salty, smooth, and it creates a different mouthfeel to chocolate made from cow’s milk.
And how much of it do you eat a day?
Oh, plenty! And my family and I drink camel milk every morning – it’s packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals. We feel more awake, stronger and healthier because of drinking it.
What has kept you in the chocolate industry for so long?
I’m in the business of making people happy – what’s not to enjoy? We have a word in German that best describes my job: lecker! There’s nothing better than walking into the factory each day, being surrounded by the smell of good chocolate.