Grenadian Diary – settling in at the chocolate factory

Here’s another update from James’s adventures with the Grenada Chocolate Company. It sounds like he’s enjoying himself despite his homework, and he’s certainly having better weather than we are in the UK!

 

Day 3

This morning I visit Victoria where I’d hoped to see the new (non-organic) cocoa processing factory and its builder Jim Mort, but he’s been called away. So it’s back across the mountains to Hermitage and the factory where I have long chat with Edmond about the various things I hope to be working on.

Edmond Brown, chocolate maker and co-founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company

Edmond Brown, chocolate maker and co-founder of the GCC

Then we go to check on the stock at Belmont Estate and to see Kairon and Rashida at the Bonbon shop. The warehouse on the estate has been built to a really high standard by Marlon and his team (Marlon also works at the factory). It holds the sugar and cocoa in a dehumidified room, all packaging, and once the air-conditioner and final insulation has arrived from the US, all finished chocolate bars.

Edmond’s co-founders at the Grenada Chocolate Company both died young, Doug Browne from cancer and Mott Green at this warehouse, and Edmond and I can’t help but reflect on the tragic waste of Mott’s death.

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The packaging store

The chocolate storage room under construction

The chocolate storage room under construction

Persha, the company’s book-keeper, arrives in the evening. There is a premium paid for organic cocoa but this has been somewhat eroded of late, and some of the farmers are understandably concerned about this. Persha is cautious about raising the price GCC pay to cocoa farmers, and one of the key factors I aim to work on is how this can be afforded.

Persha hands over a large folder of export invoices which need to be entered on to the system. My homework will be some data entry; without it we won’t have a clear record of sales to evaluate the past year’s performance.

As I leave with my homework, the evening shift wrapping crew (4 stalwarts, Kaciann, Natalie, Vilma and Lauren) are halfway through their 1500 bar allocation. This late shift is needed to stay on target to finish the Tres Hombres consignment of 24,000 bars destined to leave for Holland on 3rd February, and Edmond and Carmiter stay on to help out and make sure they all don’t leave after 9pm! It’s unusual to see anyone wearing more than a t-shirt in Grenada, but the chocolate must be kept cool so the wrapping crew exist in Grenadian winter all year.

Vilma, Natalie and Lauren wrapping in very non-tropical conditions

Vilma, Natalie and Lauren wrapping in very non-tropical conditions

 

Day 4

Today I catch up with emails before taking pictures of all the workers at the factory and working out how to download from camera to laptop. Modern technology is wonderful… when you can work it!

The cocoa sorting team are also hard at work. Every bean is hand-picked, so they are a key part of quality control and there would be no chocolate without them.

Sheron and Miss Joyce sorting cocoa beans

Sheron and Miss Joyce sorting cocoa beans

Today we work out that only 3-4% of the beans that come in end up in the rubbish chute. This low percentage is down to the new cocoa dryers which Mott built at Belmont. It takes a week in good weather to dry the cocoa, but this used to be a far more labour-intensive process when the cocoa was open to the vagaries of the elements. Happily I seem to have brought a change in weather as it has been unseasonally rainy since December and the sun is a relief.

The new solar cocoa bean dryers

The new solar cocoa bean dryers

The other core activity at the factory, besides making chocolate, is processing cocoa powder. The chocolate contains a little extra cocoa butter, which Marlon separates from the cocoa powder by crushing cocoa beans in the GCC’s unique home-made presses.

Marlon manning the cocoa butter presses

Marlon manning the cocoa butter presses

The happy by-product of this process is a delicious cocoa powder called Smilo. It comes out of the press as a compacted cake, which is pulverized to remove any lumps in an antique melangeur.

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Ron grinding the Smilo into a fine powder

This powder is then packed by the indefatigable Camiter.

Camiter and cocoa powder warriors

Camiter with her Smilo bags lined up like cocoa powder warriors

Finally, it’s back home for a Caribbean tapas evening laid on by Annie and chef Cedric…

 

Catch up on the first installation of James’ diary here.

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