In the world of side hustles and extra income, I’ve quickly come to learn that making connections and collaboration are two of the most important tools one can employ. Starting out and often finding myself occupying the space of an uncertain, wet behind the ears newbie, made me my own worst enemy in the beginning. Always unsure of whether my request for collaboration or even a sit down, would be met with openness or the casual brush off of a seasoned hustler that I had told myself (for whatever reason) to expect. However, I’m pleased to report that so far, I’ve met warm and keen individuals who are more than happy to link arms and side-hustle with me. And oh, the magic we’ve created.
I met Tapiwa, founder of Tapi Tapi Desserts and creator of the unique, African flavoured cold treats and other delicacies that make him so important in the food space, at one such creative collaboration. At the time, I’d forgotten just how I’d started following him on social media. I remember now that it was because he was going minimalist and documenting his journey. Who would’ve known that years later, I’d be sitting at a table with fifteen other food-curious humans, tasting his offerings. I think what strikes me the most about Tapiwa’s take on ice cream, is the commitment to taking what we’ve been (erronously) conditioned to consider the most unassuming fruits or foods and harnessing what becomes the most memorable parts and elevating them to delectable, memory triggering desserts.
I , like Tapiwa, am Zimbabwean. So, a lot of the flavours he invokes in his desserts are familiar. The maputi flavour reminds me of the long walks home after school, the detours we took to draw out the time spent together as friends as though we had not just endured 8 hours together behind desks in colourful classrooms. We’d stop at one of the many vendors littered along the cycle track that ran past the schools on Chelmsford Road and rustle together what coins we could, then proceed to share however many packets we could afford.
The smell of the blackjack ice cream transports me to riding my bike through my neighbourhood which back then, was more of a conglomerate of small bushes littered with sturdy thorn trees, before the plots were bought and built up. My brother and I would return home with clumps of blackjacks stuck to our socks and the bottoms of our track suits. We’d prop the bikes outside our old, rusty gate and pick each other clean before going in, for fear of uMa laying into us for riding through the shrubbery. These are just two of the delectable flavours on the Tapi Tapi menu.
Tapiwa is fearless. But also intuitive. He attributes his particular craft to noting the absence of the flavours he grew up enjoying as a child, in the food he consumes today. Gourmet cuisine is often European and the market for ‘exotic’ food is saturated by east-Asian food, as though Africa never fed her children before the visitors came. What he does is important because it centers the African palate, quite rightly so, in Africa, through African food and flavours. In the most beautiful way, I can suddenly taste my childhood in the food he produces, the same way an American remembers root beer or swishers from their childhood.
Honestly, when first I pitched the idea of collaborating with him and my favourite thing – wine -I thought he might hesitate because of how different wine is from what he strives to create. Historically, wine has non – African roots and to this day, although a booming market exists in the Western Cape in particular, largely excludes people of colour beyond the grapevines. You can see how asking him to incorporate this thing with his thing might have felt like a long shot.
He didn’t hesitate.
The fearlessness I spoke of earlier quickly vanished however, when he texted me, frustrated, standing in front of a shelf of wine and not knowing where to start in identifying the wine I’d selected. He doesn’t drink you see, and was overwhelmed by the wide selection of wines that he was now expected to sift through. It was hilarious. Eventually we worked around it – not all heroes wear capes. I think this little fact adds to the wonder of how he worked with a substance he doesn’t consume and still produced magic. (The fearlessness makes a comeback!)
Tapiwa found a way to incorporate wine into his African cuisine, to create familiar but not quite familiar flavours. He made four sorbets using the wine I selected. Now, I’m not a sweet rosé lover but I couldn’t very well exclude those with the sweet palates now could I? The first sorbet we tried was a blend of strawberries and the Nederburg, natural sweet rosé. Nederburg rosé is a South African staple and the sorbet he produced should honestly receive a similar title. All the sorbets containing wine were curiously soft, not grainy or icy, like sorbets usually are.
The Nederburg sorbet was followed by one of my favourite rosés – the De Grendel rosé paired with pineapple. My favourite thing about this sorbet was the pineapple pulp that gave the almost sickly sweet flavour some texture. We had a non alcoholic sorbet – made from a pairing of the Robertson non alcoholic sweet sparkling wine and the classic Zimbabwean tea, Tanganda, brewed cold and black, finished off with a zing of ginger. The final sorbet was the lovechild of the Spier chardonnay/pinot noir blend (so, not quite a rosé but still with the blush colour) and Granny Smith apples with brandy pickled kumquats.
Tapi tapi means ‘yum yum’ in Tapiwa’s mother tongue – chiShona – in specific reference to sweet things which is apt if you ask me. My palate experienced almost ineffable joy when tasting these creations. I also think I can confidently speak for all our guests who ooh-ed and mmmm-ed from the beginning to the very last spoonful. Tapiwa consistently encourages a healthy curiosity and an education through his chosen medium. He challenges you to dig deep into memory and locate yourself in your heritage, proudly, via something as simple and necessary as food. I am grateful for this new found link to my forebears.