Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chocolatiers of the Caribbean

It is always fun to try new chocolate, particularly one from a single origin. At a recent chocolate shop visit, I happened upon a bar sourced straight from the Caribbean! Grenada Chocolate has its own unique flavour and its own unique story. Founder and local Grenada resident, Mott Green, took time out to answer a few of my burning questions about this tasty and colourfully-wrapped chocolate.

First off, we are all curious about how Grenada Chocolate came to be.

During the 12 years before starting the chocolate company, I lived in a little bamboo house that I built in the mountains here in Grenada and experimented with growing my own food and living alone in the woods with very little money. There were cocoa trees all around, and I fell in love with both the cocoa and Grenada.

I founded The Grenada Chocolate Company with two friends after dreaming about the idea for many years. In 1999, one friend from the U.S., Doug Browne, offered a start-up loan and became a partner, together with myself and my oldest friend in Grenada, Edmond Brown. We researched and learned to make chocolate on a shoe-string, and built most of our own machines at the beginning. Over the years, we have found antique machines to refurbish and bought some new machines.

Wow, what a story. So why choose a bean-to-bar operation?

Well, my idea was what I now call "Tree to Bar." It is a way of ensuring fairness with cocoa farmers, in which actual laborers are in a cooperative with chocolate-makers. Everyone benefits equally, creating much more value for the cocoa beans by making fine chocolate in the region in which it is grown. So, of course, this meant bean to bar as well.

What factors do you consider in the choice of your current source of cacao?

We take any cocoa farm into our cooperative as long as they are truly committed to only using organic methods on their farm. All of the cocoa grown in Grenada is fantastic quality cocoa, very fine flavour.

What is the most rewarding aspect of working so closely with a community?

I love the people here in Grenada, so it is rewarding for me to be well loved and prominent in the local community. It feels right, as well, to work with farmers and people from the village where I live to make chocolate; it is like a family business!

What are the biggest challenges of running a responsible chocolate company?

Well, for me, the idea was to ensure social responsibility and fairness by manufacturing the chocolate bars right here at the cocoa farms. That is the only way to really guarantee true fairness. This, however, is a big challenge because it is difficult to produce chocolate in hot and humid climates. Being an isolated little island, it is also very expensive to import machines, parts, packaging material and the cost of energy is very high here. We are half solar-powered, which feels right, and also was a costly initial investment.

Where do you see the company headed? Any exciting upcoming developments?

More Organic cocoa farms, more chocolate, more sales internationally. New types of chocolate bars. Soon, we will have a 100% cocoa bar. And, later maybe a sea salt bar.

Describe your favourite chocolate bar.

I like our 82% and our Nib-a-Licious the best, depending on my mood

That 82% is pretty darn good, and I like the sound of the 100% cocoa bar! Grenada Chocolate can be found online or at certain specialty chocolate shops (like Biagio in DC). Thanks to Mott for chatting with me!


Victoria said...

Their packaging really is eye-catching. I love this series and think it is a very enlightening evaluation of the bean-to-bar chocolate making process. It also raises some questions about other chocolate makers - where do their beans come from? What labor practices are involved in the supply of their cacao? Do they pay fair prices?

Rachel said...

It is actually interesting to note that bean-to-bar does not necessarily equate to responsible production. For example, both Hershey's and Mars are b2b. Generally the smaller artisan chocolate makers source their beans with the care you mention. They don't have the clout of big companies nor do they blindly buy from whatever bean dealer (this sounds sketch. better term?)