Support: 250 551 2904 / 250 448 6479 / 250 352 2190
0 $0
This list is empty

Vancouver gets hotter with the arrival of award-winning West African hot sauce (2005)

Just how much of a scorcher is it?

“At least five times hotter than Tabasco Sauce,” says Edmond Segbeaya, a refugee from Togo now living in Nelson where he makes the Habanero-crammed West African-style condiment he calls Ebesse Zozo or “hot pepper” in his native Togolese language of Ewe. Ebesse Zozo, which will make its debut in the Lower Mainland at Caper’s Community Markets this week, already has a loyal following in the Kootenay region. And it was also hot enough to burn the competition at the 2004 Fiery Food Challenge in Dallas, Texas – the world’s top competition for blistering condiments – where it beat out 875 other entrants to take first place in the people’s choice category.

Not bad for Awassi, a one-man company Segbeaya founded in 2001 shortly after he and his family arrived in Nelson after living for 10 years as refugees in Germany.

A taste of life in Canada

Now widely known in the Nelson area as “the hot sauce guy,” Segbeaya, 39, didn’t start out as a cook. In 1991, he was a politically active student in Togo when he and his wife fled from a dictatorship government leaving their young twin daughters behind. In Germany, he eventually faced deportation and was forced into hiding in the basement of a monastery until a group of churches from the Nelson area sponsored the family to immigrate to Canada. In Nelson, the twins were re-united with their parents and a new sister who was born in Germany.

Despite a very warm welcome, Segbeaya says his family couldn’t find a hot sauce to suit their tastes so whenever he found Habanero peppers at the local co-op he’d buy a crate and re-create his family’s recipe – a thick orange concoction made from vegetables and Habanero peppers.

“Every family in Togo has their own hot sauce recipe, “Segbeaya says. “It’s a tropical country and the Habanero grows everywhere. Everything we eat is hot and dinner would simply be missing something without hot sauce.”

A curious co-op manager eventually asked Segbeaya what he did with entire crates of fiery peppers. When Segbeaya gave him a taste of the hot sauce, the manager asked Segbeaya to produce some for sale and Awassi, which means “people who run from persecution”, was born.

Segbeaya’s enthusiasm for life and for hot sauce is infectious and he quickly became fixture on the streets of Nelson where he’d haul around his hot sauce and crackers and tempt passersby to stop for a taste by saying, “try this and you’ll dream of Africa.”

He hopes people in the Lower Mainland will develop a taste for his peppery hot sauce now available in four varieties: hot, medium, mild and an extra-mild dipping sauce (also an award-winner at the 2004 Fiery Foods Challenge). But don’t let the world mild fool you. All these sauces sizzle.

All four products are carried exclusively in the Lower Mainland by Capers and are priced at $11.99 each.

Segbeaya will be introducing his products at tasting events being held this week at Capers Community Markets.

Friday, July 15, Kitsilano Capers, 2285 West 4th Avenue, 11am- 5 pm Saturday, July 16, West Vancouver Capers, 2496 Marine Drive, 11am- 5 pm Sunday, July 17, Robson Capers, 1675 Robson Street, 11am - 5pm

Source: Raindrop Communications (2005)