For the chocolate amateur or enthusiast, the festival offers a great opportunity to get involved in a positively-minded event, which is increasingly concerned with the sustainability of cocoa and chocolate in Grenada, and gives the opportunity to meet other chocolate professionals, and become involved in organised trips to the now several chocolate making locations on the island, amongst them the small new Crayfish Bay estate, Belmont, and the much larger Diamond factory.
There’s something in this festival for everyone; the opportunity to be a farmer for a day or relax on a plantation, with some fun, light-hearted elements, and this year, some serious science from the renowned cocoa researcher Dr Darin Sukha who entranced me with his explanations of origin, flavour and genotypes, and gave us samples of an incredible chocolate made from rare strains of Trinitario from his home of Trinidad. As a chocolatier of so many years, it was an honour to meet him.
Another notable attendee was Ana Rita Garcia, from Mexico, who spoke of her country’s chocolate, and the importance of respecting origin not only with regards to flavour, but also technique and texture. I agree with her completely that we must try to respect the cultural traditions of chocolate making in various countries, and celebrate them, rather than trying to homogenise chocolate to conform to certain standards that we consider in Europe to be necessities of ‘quality’.
The opportunity to speak with these, and other individuals from this wonderfully extensive world of chocolate I belong to, was invaluable. Swapping stories of chocolate making and chocolatiering, and giving a tasting of our Rococo ganaches made with Grenada Chocolate Company 71%, back in the country where it was made, was a special experience for me. The resoundingly positive response from all those at the tasting made me even more proud of what we do here at Rococo. To my amazement and relief, despite the journey, humidity and heat, all the truffles were in perfect condition!
My first meeting with the Tree-to-Bar legend that is Edmond Brown and a few of the Grenada Chocolate Company team, was at the opening party. Later, on the Festival trip to the Factory, I saw the brightly coloured BonBon shop for the first time.
Here, Edmond gave a talk about the company’s beginnings, of Mott, and of the company now. I did a presentation for which Chantal provided much content regarding Rococo’s links with the company. It’s a fascinating tale of chance meetings, chocolate obsessions and a man compelled to start up a socially and environmentally sound business, combining later with a British company looking to forge ties with some cocoa roots, and help wherever we can.
Few people know the extent of James and Chantal’s relationship with the GCC, and I was able to tell the story of our involvement from the early days of Rococo selling bars when they were trying to establish a market, Coady family visits over the years, helping out post hurricanes Ivan and Emily (which are still very much in the public consciousness), and of James and Chantal’s efforts to help in whatever way they can following the sad passing of Mott. I told of the effect he had on the people who met him at Rococo, and of how inspirational he has been to many chocolatiers and chocolate makers. I wanted to emphasise to everybody present, who had visited and other makers too, just how revolutionary the creation of the GCC was.
They pioneered tree to bar chocolate making, in a time when bean to bar was in its infancy, and in a socially and environmentally sound way. The company pay considerably more to farmers for organic beans than that which non-organic farmers receive from the Cocoa Council, and they pay higher wages to all staff than is common in Grenada. They employ most of, and are undoubtedly the heart of the small village of Hermitage, and without them, it’s highly doubtful that Grenada would be as respected for their chocolate as they are, or whether they would have this currently blossoming chocolate industry, with now four other makers on the island, and another on the way.
The welcome they put on for the Festival attendees was warm and heartfelt, and the highlight of week. Everyone was given a tour, fed with Mott’s favourite lunch of Oil Down (plantain, breadfruit and other vegetables cooked into a spiced stew) whilst listening to Reggae, and given a goodie bag of sweet and chewy solar-dried bananas, hand-rolled truffles and a small spiced bee-bar, in our Rococo mould. Mott would have been proud of them all, I’m sure. There are efforts to get Mott Green day officially recognised, and I hope this happens, as he was the power behind something very special indeed, and something which has had a considerable legacy for the country of Grenada as a whole.
Tomorrow I was due to begin my experience at the factory, and I couldn’t wait…