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The Cocoa Industry Is Making A Comeback In The Caribbean

By Kelsey Marie

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Machel Montano is a soca star hailing from Trinidad and Tobago and there’s one thing he’s been unabashedly excited about — chocolate.

“There is a revolution taking place,” says Montano.

Trinidad and Tobago have been experiencing a major comeback in the cocoa production industry. During the past century, cocoa production had gone from 30,000 tons per year to less than 500 tons.

Montano is adamant about getting the cocoa industry in Trinidad back to its glory days. In 2014, he launched his own brand of organic artisanal dark chocolate.

Montano’s brand uses Trinitario, a variety of cocoa dating back to the 18th century in Trinidad.

According to Forbes, “Trinitario is the world’s most exclusive cocoa hybrid — and one of the rarest — representing only 5% of all cocoa.”

This type of cocoa is only grown in 23 countries and 8 of the 23 are in the Caribbean.

Nick Davis, owner of One One Cacao in Jamaica says, “What we have here is the equivalent of champagne grapes. There are very few areas in which the Caribbean has a natural advantage in products, and this is one. The soil in the Caribbean is ideal for fine flavor cacao.”

The process of bean-to-bar has become a trend in the chocolate industry. It was created by Mott Green at The Grenada Chocolate Company and gives producers full control over their cocoa production.

Grenada currently has five bean-to-bar chocolate producers and combined, there are about 800 tons of cocoa produced each year.

St. Lucia has also jumped on the bean-to-bar wave and it has become a major source of income for female entrepreneurs.

The downside to cocoa production in the Caribbean is many farmers and governments are unaware of how valuable their cocoa beans are.

“Jamaica has one of the top cocoa beans in the world but they are undervalued,” says Wouter Tjeertes and Rennae Johnson, a husband and wife team who own Pure Chocolate Company in Trelawny, Jamaica.

They go on to say: “The government sells the chocolate in bulk to mass producers and are missing out.”

However, when farmers know their value, their brand becomes unstoppable.

“We make fantastic high-end chocolate and we give back in the right way,” says the owners of Pure Chocolate Company.

The industry is still small which gives it the advantage to increase its success as an exporter of artisan chocolate.

Currently, there are only 1.5% of all chocolate exports originating in the Caribbean.

Davis comments on the global craft chocolate industry saying: “We are where wine was 50-60 years ago with cocoa. We are all starting in the same place. We are all using the same equipment.”

He concludes by saying: “Our advantage is clear. We don’t have to import the raw materials. We can be present from start to finish. If we have the raw materials and we produce one of the top-selling consumer products in the world, then we should benefit from the higher margins as well.”

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Kelsey Marie

Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can keep up with her on Instagram at @kelseydashmarie

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