‘It takes a whole village to make one chocolate bar’
Deep in the tropical forest of the Caribbean Island Grenada is a perfect place to grow cocoa. When anarchist chocolate maker Mott Green arrived for the first time to Grenada, he saw both the enormous potential of cocoa and the large local unemployment (40%) and he came up with a revolutionary idea of creating a cooperative of organic cocoa farmers and to actually make chocolate in the tropics ‘the whole idea of the Grenada Chocolate company started to revolutionise the connection between cocoa farmers and making fine chocolate, to strenghten the position of farmers.
Obviously the tropical climate is an extra challenge to get the job done, but since founding the Grenada Chocolate Company in 1999, they have become pretty good at it and are making award winning chocolate now.
Every part of the process is essential for the final taste of the chocolate bar and having complete control over each part of this process and ingredients used, in small batches, obviously allows them to produce very fine quality. It takes a whole village to make one chocolate bar and it takes 8 months from tree to bar. The following steps are passed before they can send a wrapped bar off to you:
1 – planting cocoa trees, harvesting cocoa pods
2 – fermenting of the cocoa beans and drying
3 – sorting by hand and roasting
4 - winnowing (taking the shells off the beans)
5 – grinding (crunching the beans and the magic of making them into a liquid)
6 – refining/conching (process to get acids out of the chocolate and more technical stuff)
7 – tempering (pooring the liquid chocolate at the exact right temperature into moulds)
8 – wrapping…
Growing and harvesting cocoa
From the three main cocoa tree species (Forastero, Criollo and Trinitario), Grenada is blessed with some of the best cocoa in the world, Grenada grows almost entirely Trinitario cocoa with a few Forasteros. After 5 years they start growing so called ‘cocoa pods’, the fruits that literally grow from the stem and have green, red and yellow colors depending on how ripe they are. They more or less have the shape and size of a large avocado and the inside is filled with 20 to 40 beans covered in white fruit. Harvest season is all year round but peaks between December and March. The farmers cut the cocoa pods within reach with their machete and to reach high in the tops of the cocoa trees they use a bamboo stick with a sharp knife at the end, (requires experience!). When bags are filled with cocoa pods they open them and empty the beans covered in fruit into buckets. The taste of these covered beans is comparable to passion fruit and very healthy – cocoa being one of the richest fruits in the world. At the end of the workday the so called ‘wet cocoa’ in buckets is transported to Belmonte Estate where the cocoa is weighed and farmers are payed: 2 East Caribbean Dollar per 100 pounds of wet cacao. This results in about 40pound of dry cocoa after the fermenting and drying, which also costs money. All inclusive – the cost per pound of dry cocoa is about 5 East Caribbean dollars (about 4 Euro).
Fermenting and drying
The wet cacao is poured into an open wooden box and the fermentation process starts. For 7 days the fruit of the cocoa beans is given time for the chemical process of the alcohol entering the bean. This gives the cocoa bean extra rich and complex in taste. The wooden sides of the box are covered with a certain gum (host for bacteria) to enhance the fermenting process. Every day the beans are turned and mixed to stimulate the process and after 7 days the beans look brown because the fruit is almost gone and they are transferred to the cocoa dry house. In this transparent plastic greenhouse is filled with tables of long perforated metal plates where the cocoa beans are spread out. The open slot in the roof creates a draft of air which flows through the house and through the perforated metal plates, causing a drying effect similar to that of a blow dryer. Usually in combination with the sun heating the greenhouse, after about 7 days the beans are dried well, which is important to avoid any mold (exactly what happens to majority of the mass produced and transported beans). Packed back into large brown bags the beans are transported up the road, to the factory of the Grenada Chocolate Company.
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