Khayelitsha Cookie Company

As a South African, it’s sometimes difficult to know how to help. There are so many projects, so many causes, so many things wrong with our society that it can feel immobilizing before you’ve even reached out a hand to help.

Which is why I love the Khayelitsha Cookie Company. They’re not asking for a hand-out, they’re offering you the chance to do good while eating (wait for it!) 100% handmade cookies. And who doesn’t love eating cookies?

The project began small, with an American woman teaching a few unemployed women from Khayelitsha how to make cookies, and then trying to find avenues to sell them. These days, the Khayelitsha Cookie Company has grown in size and reach, supplying Pick n Pay supermarkets and major hotels across the Western Cape with their delicious cookies, and entirely self-owned (with shares for all workers who are employed with the KCC longer than a year).  The company organizes skills training for all the women, and everyone who works there was previously unemployed without any marketable skills. They are taken in, trained how to bake and work as administrative staff, and then encouraged to find work elsewhere (if they want to) so that new space is created for more women to be trained.

That’s all very well and good, but what about the cookies? They are (and I do not exaggerate here) some of the best biscuits I have tasted. Ever. Their brownies will make you weep they’re so dense and chocolatey. Their butterscotch biscuits are straight from heaven. And their chocolate dipped shortbread is sinfully delicious.  Even more impressive (if that’s possible) is the fact that each cookie is handmade. And I don’t mean that they put a cookie mix into a mixer and walk away. I mean they measure out each ingredient, whisk it by hand, roll out the batter and individually cut out each cookie with cookie cutters. They even shave their own chocolate instead of using chocolate chips! This is artisan work.

Of course, all good projects need the right amount of each ingredient, and in this case it seems the Khayelitsha Cookie Company have struck gold. They have the community work aspect (check!), the delicious product aspect (check!) and, perhaps most importantly, the women seem genuinely happy to be working. They laugh and sing and joke as they work, the smell of chocolate filling the air, hundreds of deliciously soft and crumbly biscuits piling up everywhere you look. Do yourself a favour – give them a call and ask if you can pop in for a factory visit (they’ll welcome you with open arms, coffee and fresh cookies). It’s a visit you won’t forget in a hurry.

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