High in the lush interior of Grenada a chocolate industry is quietly taking shape
Words by Natasha Were
Grenada’s rich, volcanic soil and warm, wet climate is plant paradise. Cocoa trees have been thriving in the steep, fertile hills for generations. Planted in between a profusion of other crops – bananas, citrus, nutmeg and cinnamon, amongst others – the beans take on subtle undertones of fruit and spice.
The complexities of turning cocoa beans in to chocolate are such, however, that until recently the cocoa was merely dried and roasted on-island, before being exported. Cocoa farmers were thus completely divorced from the finished product and the profits fell squarely into the hands of chocolate manufacturers half a world away.
Change came in the 1990s in the shape of Mott Green (born David Friedman) a young, bohemian American who had opted out of conventional life in the US in favour of a bamboo shack in Grenada’s mountains. Green soon developed a taste for cocoa tea, a hot local brew made from cocoa dissolved in hot water, then sweetened and flavoured with local spices. Why, he wondered, when the raw materials were readily available, was no one going the extra mile to turn cocoa into chocolate?
Described by those who knew him as a visionary, idealist and creative genius, it became Green’s passion to produce a bean-to-bar chocolate that was organic, sustainable and fair trade.
Inspired by his love of the land and the people as much as the fine flavour of the cocoa, he threw himself into learning about chocolate making, returning to the US to study for several years, before founding the Grenada Chocolate Company in 1999.
The headquarters were – and still are – a modest Caribbean cottage painted in yellow, blue and green. Its handful of rooms house a variety of antique machines that Green, an environmentalist (hence the alias), as well as an able electrician and mechanic, had reconditioned and adapted to run on solar power.
The only added ingredient in the rich, dark chocolate is organic cane sugar and the cooperative of organic cocoa farmers he established ensures producers are paid above the going rate. By 2005 the small-batch chocolate was winning awards from the UK-based Academy of Chocolate.
The final link in his ethical, sustainable production and distribution chain came in March 2013 when he loaded a sail-powered brigantine with 50,000 bars of chocolate destined for Europe where a team of cycle couriers delivered them to customers. It was the world’s first carbon neutral transatlantic chocolate delivery.
Tragically, Green died a few months later, electrocuted whilst working on one of his machines. Sorely missed by all who knew him, he leaves an extraordinary legacy: he has inspired a chocolate revolution.
Since his death, two more small-scale, local chocolate factories have gone into operation following the same ethical principles. In 2014, Jouvay Chocolate, which is 70% owned by local farmers, opened its doors. In three years, its nutmeg and cinnamon-infused bars have become a favourite sweet treat among locals, and the large-scale operation is creating employment opportunities in the previously-depressed town of Victoria.
In May this year, Belmont Estate also began producing its own artisanal chocolate in a small, state-of-the-art facility located just across the road from the cocoa fields. Nearby, a rum distillery now produces a chocolate-rum liqueur and in the capital St George, the House of Chocolate is a cocoa-themed café, boutique and museum in one.
Rather than competing against one another, these local operations all share a common goal: to empower cocoa growers, to stimulate a new industry and to put Grenada on the map for its chocolate production. It’s entirely possible that the island once nicknamed the Spice Isle may soon become better known as the Chocolate Isle.
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