After months of visits, meetings and talks, we as in myself and my partner in cocoa crime in the Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company, have finally signed the agreement to lease a site at La Reunion for a bean to liquor and bean to bars small factory.
This is the first initiative of its kind on an island where cocoa growing has been in severe decline despite being a place of historical significance for cocoa. The signing of the M.O.U was accompanied by a press conference that attracted close to 100 journalists. Our plan is to revive the heritage cocoa, often old ICS varieties, by processing locally and allow farmers to rent the equipment to foster local entrepreneurship.
One of the most common (and sometimes midly irritating) questions i am asked as a founder of Artisan du chocolat is our stance on fairtrade and organic. As a company we have taken the approach to know our suppliers very well. Our main supplier of chocolate in Colombia does not use chemicals, not even to get rid of diseased plants. Instead they have developed good plantation management practices. For example they carefully check the plants, cut the black pods, wrap them in bin bags and bury them to decompose without affecting the other trees. They operate many social programs with farmers as well as an agricultural cocoa school. Are they registered as Fair trade or Organic? No because in their words they would rather spend the large amount of money required by these international organisations to help the farmers and grow better cocoa.
In a world where time is limited, i understand the need for consumers to rely on certification brands so that where the mere sight of a logo gives confidence. The reality is however much more complex. Organic certification for cocoa beans in the cocoa belt is often obtained by bribes. Fairtrade pricing still rewards traders far beyond the meagre reward for the grower.
The Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa company will not be certified organic or fairtrade but it has agreed to pay farmers 80% more for their beans and will allow farmers to rent equipment to process their beans so they too can have access to higher value added products.
I wish we could come back to a time where we all knew and trusted who produced what we feed our bodies. At Artisan it is my commitment to know my suppliers of cocoa, even if this means spending a week in a plantation getting bitten by mosquitos or starting the wonderful venture of tropical a bean to liquor atelier. Have a soulful week Miss Anne xxx