Understanding the chocolate-making, it was now time for me to make my way to the BonBon shop. Staffed by Kaciann, the supervisor, Kemron, the main chocolatier, and Laurel and Rashida, both part time, these guys work entirely by hand to create a range of hand-rolled truffles, fruit pastes, cashew and nib clusters and a few moulded chocolates.
They buy ingredients from local farmers and producers; Rivers Rum (from the incredible 18th century factory), nutmeg, cinnamon, young coconut, soursop, cantaloupe, mango, passionfruit, guava, papaya…juice them and then blend the juice with the company’s chocolate. The ganaches are cooled and set, then rolled, dipped and decorated with toppings which are usually made from the candied flesh or skin of the fruit. The shop is dairy free, so a vegan paradise.
The working space is incredibly small, and their equipment very basic. Even having had my own artisanal shop in the past, I was more than impressed at what these guys produce with what they have – I’m not sure I could do the same! Equally, I’m very envious of the natural bounty they have at their fingertips and which is theirs to exploit. Interestingly, there wasn’t a fruit or spice which grows on the island which didn’t work with the Grenada chocolate: proof of how origins harmonise with the other produce which grows in a country or area. You’d be amazed how origin chocolates can clash with ingredients, sometimes to the point they’re inedible!
Part of my job whilst I was there was to observe the techniques of the team, enhance and tweak. I didn’t have enough time to teach them all I would have liked to, and would very much like to go back to do more training. I had just a couple of days, but I taught them the science of ganaches, plus even moulding and smooth capping. We covered how to make a dry caramel, a praline and a passionfruit caramel, how to make a rough chablon which will help with hand dipping, and also how to candy Breadnuts, which are really very similar to chestnuts, just a little stronger in flavour. I hope they’ll be continuing the candying process as I write, as I want them to make a crème de marron-type paste which they could pipe into a shell. I hope it’s good!
I also explained the importance of portion control for their hand-cut nougatine and fruit pastes, from the aspect of visuals and also profitability. Now I’m home, I’m going to write them a basic training pack, and try to develop a few set recipes, as well as hopefully getting some funding together to buy them some more equipment which will make their lives a lot easier and help them when they get busier in future.
As I left the factory and the shop, they gave me some little presents – truffles and bars for the team to sample, some cocoa butter (the smell takes me straight back to the factory, particularly the cocoa butter pressing room), a couple of bags of Smilo (I don’t know whether I’ll ever use them, or just look at them happily!), and a few bags of the awesome sun-dried bananas. Mrs Joyce gave me two little mangoes, which was very touching, and Edmond gave me a bag of sapadillos and some tamarind for my journey, which Miss Joyce followed with a Tamarind ball – sour, sweet and so good!
In summary, I would say Grenada is a very special place. As a few locals said to me; ‘We live in paradise’. Life isn’t easy and the climate is hot and humid, but it’s a country with a bounty of beauty and natural produce. It has the air of a country on the rise, growing stronger all the time. The chocolate industry is growing, and with this, the negative connotations for farmers and young people towards cocoa are disintegrating. But it’s important amongst all of this growth that we, and the country of Grenada remember where this chocolate industry began: with Mott, Edmond and Doug at the Grenada Chocolate Factory – The Original Tree to Bar. With their renovated machines and crazy inventions, they transformed a village, putting chocolate at its heart, and transforming chocolate making in the process.
There are few people you can meet, and places that you can go, where expectations are met, let alone exceeded, but the GCC did this for me. And I’m just a little bit more in love with it then I was before. It’s a great company, with admirable ethics, and sustainability at the core of its soul and also its success. It’s set to grow, but they’ll need everybody’s continued support to get there.
So remember when you’re choosing your chocolate – think of the story and the people behind it, remember the faces and the ingredients. And the love.