and how The M'hencha Company a small but perfectly formed Artisan Home Bakery in The Cotswolds came to be:
Hello and welcome, my name is Sophie, founder and master M'hencha Maker!
My story is a rather familiar one of work hard, play hard, try to have it all and as a reward find the brakes firmly put on. In my case it was not my mind but my body, in the shape of a chronic autoimmune condition called systemic lupus that called the halt. Completely invisible apart from when I'm in the middle of a flare you wouldn't even know it but it did take its toll.
As things reached a difficult stage and a particularly bad flare it was clear something had to change including the pressure of a corporate career. Looking back now I know it was the fear of the unknown, the comfort of stability that made me cling onto a career that had served its purpose. I exited corporate world with a lot of anxiety about what the future would hold and if changing lifestyle would help me stabilise my lupus. That said there had to be a better way to manage my condition, earn a living where I wasn't damaging myself in the process and feeling that I was doing something worthwhile that people would appreciate.
I thought baking cake to order would be a grand plan, pleasure to do, creative, local, start small = less pressured and in my naivety totally unsustainable! My background in sales and marketing somehow vaporised initially but as they say you have to try a few things before things settle into place. Business head back on I needed something unique, that no one else was focussing on, something that would mail order if needed. something really really special that I could feel proud of.
Cue M'hencha. Baking my way through sweet sections of international cookbooks I fell upon M'hencha heady and fragrant, in fact too fragrant, too sweet, too much syrup but there was something that I found addictive. So I looked for M'hencha everywhere, tried every recipe I could find then adjusted and refined to my palate and a taste journey was born.
My final interpretation of this Moroccan delight met with such an extraordinary response at a Christmas Market that I felt I had to see if I could get a Food Industry seal of approval and submitted M'hencha Citrus, Rosewater & Pistachio to the Great Taste Awards. I was utterly overwhelmed to receive 3* and have have my M'hencha named as one of the Top 50 Foods in Britain & Ireland 2012. This catapulted M'hencha into the limelight and The M'hencha Company was born.
The next 3 years were a learning curve, slowly realising that Rosewater can be an acquired taste, that all palates are different. Some people can only taste lemon, some orange, some rosewater and the lucky ones - often coffee drinkers for some reason enjoy the full taste journey, frangipane, citrus notes, pistachio, with a lingering hint of rose. I also realised this meant I was excluding a big chunk of people and that I needed a new flavour so they could enjoy M'hencha too. At this point I was fortunate to meet a wonderfully vocal Algerian gentleman at a tasting event in Fortnum and Mason who told me his Mother made a much better version of M'hencha than I did! I welcomed his critique and invited him to tell me all about "his" m'hencha, he was literally transported and I found myself savouring the flavours, their traditions and once home I started playing with spice, dried fruit and citrus.
In 2015 the Orange, Cinnamon and Date M'hencha was launched. It would turn out to be the alter ego to the adventurous, fragrant, fresh notes of the Citrus Rosewater & Pistachio. It's more robust, punchy, spicy and comforting and turns out to be a firm favourite with tea drinkers. So off I go again M'hencha in hand to the Guild of Fine Foods Now I for one prefer the Citrus, Rosewater and Pistachio just because its so different so was absolutely blown away when the Orange, Cinnamon and Date was awarded 3*, Top 50 status AND won the Golden Fork for the South West (Food Industry Oscar.)
2016 was another special year when I was awarded the Great Taste VIP award sponsored by Woman and Home Magazine. The Award is given in recognition of smaller producers who will go that extra mile to create something special.
It’s 2019 and I'm still here, my lupus is mostly under control (as far as these things can be) and I remain passionate about what I am creating, keeping the business small and specialist, personally crafting every M'hencha that leaves the kitchen to order.
What's next? There's a long way to go on the M'hencha front, I'd guestimate probably 99% of people still haven't heard of M'hencha, tasted it or even know what it is....so I think its going to take me a while to spread the love of M'hencha. If you're already a fan, thank you for your appreciation hopefully you're a subscriber to the M’hencha Appreciation Society and are enjoying your quarterly offer and if you're not its time to take the plunge....and just to chivvy you along enter NEW19 at the checkout for an introductory 15% off. shop now then enjoy!