(This blog post was first published on the Uniterra Volunteer Blog.) During our trip to Peru, Isabella and I met Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco from Cacaosuyo. We shared some great conversations with them at the Salón del Cacao y el Chocolate and when we visited their factory. Since 2012, Samir and Eduardo have made one of the best chocolates in the world. Their products have received several awards in two prestigious competitions (International Chocolate Awards et Academy of Chocolate Awards). Cacaosuyo barsPhoto credits: Cacaosuyo Samir and Eduardo were both working in fields completely unrelated to chocolate before starting their chocolate company. Samir was at one time a pop singer, the owner of a record company. He even was a textile exporter, taking the influence for the colourful geometric patterns of Cacaosuyo’s packaging from traditional Peruvian fabrics. Eduardo, on his side, studied economics and has been an investor in various projects, mostly related to hydroelectricity. However, he was introduced to chocolate at a very young age by his mother, a confectioner. Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco, founders of Cacaosuyo. Photo credits: Trome.pe After they me at the Salón del Cacao in Lima in 2012 , Samir and Eduardo decided to start a chocolate business together. They soon realized that Peru grows a lot of native and very aromatic cacao. At that time, the Piura region was already known for its white cacao (cacao blanco), and that is where the two entrepreneurs looked for the best cacao beans to make the best chocolate. For more than a year, they learnt how to ferment and dry cacao beans with the Venezuelan expert Gladys Ramos. The fermentation and drying of the beans are two post-harvest steps usually made by the producers themselves or the cooperatives. Cacaosuyo’s founders decided to take on these steps: they built post-harvest centres in the regions where they buy beans. As Samir told us, fermentation and drying are critical to get good beans. Even when genetics are good, cacao can be ruined if those steps are not done properly. In this film clip, Samir explains why it is better for a chocolate maker to master the post-harvest processes usually done at the plantation. Bean-to-bar makers learn to make the best chocolate with the beans they receive, even if there are some defects. Sometimes, they even need to throw out an entire lot of costly cacao beans. That is why Cacaosuyo decided to take care of the post-harvest process, instead of buying dry cacao. Samir and Eduardo buy wet beans, as soon as they are removed from the pods, which is rather unusual. Even if it is a much more expensive way of buying cacao, they work directly with the cacao producers, selecting the trees that produce the finest aromatic cacao for their chocolate. They pay 66% more for the wet beans and they hire employees and engineers on site in each region. Samir and Eduardo often travel to meet the producers and keep strong links with them. For Eduardo, it is really important that the farmers know who is behind Cacaosuyo. Samir and Eduardo talked a lot about how they work, about their relationship with cacao producers and about the importance of giving them a fair price, but not through certifications. They also emphasized the fact that direct trade is not always easy for a chocolate maker that lives outside Peru: logistics are often in the way! What stands out in this interview with Samir is the fact that direct trade is multifaceted and that is important to find solutions so that more bean-to-bar makers can grow direct relationship with farmers. A platform like Yellowseed is already a game-changer! With Samir Giha and Eduardo Lanfranco, of Cacaosuyo
Grenada, nutmeg and cacao! (Part 1)
I love chocolate. Not only because it is a delicious food with many health benefits, but also because it gives me the opportunity to see the world differently. Chocolate enables me to visit countries I never thought I would travel to, and it helps me to get a better understanding of those places. Petite Anse Grenada, a tiny island in the Caribbean, is one of those countries I never thought I would visit some day… until a chocolate festival brought me there! The Grenada Chocolate Festival was created only four years ago but it has already received a lot of attention. In such a short period of time, Magdalena Fielden, the founder, managed to create a nine days event that attracts people from Grenada, surrounding islands and all over the world. Because of the history of the country, many participants of the festival came from the UK. After being conquered by the French in 1650 (Note 1), the island became an English colony in 1763, following the Treaty of Paris. Grenada became independent in 1974, but the links between this Commonwealth country and UK seem to remain strong to this day. A period of insecurity and political turmoil followed the independence, between 1979 and 1984, when the country became communist (Note 2), and allied with Cuba and USSR. I have to admit I did not know any of this before my stay in Grenada, but I find it truly interesting and fascinating. Fort Frederick St.George’s from the top of Fort Frederick Nowadays, the country seems pretty quiet politically. I have not heard anything about corruption among the elites, like in Madagascar, for example. It does not mean everything is perfect on the Island of Spice, but life seems better there than in a lot of other places I have visited. I have noticed less poverty, and I have been told that criminality is low compared to other islands in the Caribbean, like Trinidad. One of our guides during the chocolate festival told us it is safe to walk almost everywhere alone in Grenada, even at night. Nutmeg fruit Nutmeg, mace and cacao have been important crops for Grenada since colonization by Europeans. Nutmeg production is down since Ivan, the hurricane that devastated the island in 2004. The crop, unfortunately, has not fully recovered yet. Nutmeg and mace processing facility, Gouyave Whole nutmeg, ready to be shipped internationally Cacao plantations were also touched by Ivan, but as many people told me during my stay – including Dr. Darin Sukha of the University of West Indies, Trinidad -, cacao trees are resilient. Cacao production could recover from Ivan over the years, but it is not what happened for nutmeg (Note 3). Grenada is a small player on the international cacao market, with only 900 tons produced per year (Note 4). It is nonetheless a well appreciated origin when it comes to fine flavor cacao: the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) recognizes 100% of its cacao as fine flavor, a privilege only shared by 10 countries in the world! No wonder why the cacao and chocolate industry is booming these days in Grenada, as you will learn in Part 2 of this series. ———— Note 1: Many cities in the country still have French names, like Gouyave and Petite Anse. Note 2: In 1979, Maurice Bishop, leader of the New Jewel Movement, organized a coup to remove the elected president, Eric Gairy. Bishop was killed in 1983. Note 3: According to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Grenada produced 763 tons of cacao in 2004 and only 47 in 2005. The industry has now fully recovered, with 900 tons produced in 2014. In comparison, the country produced 2887 tons of nutmeg, mace and cardamom in 2004, and only 448 tons in 2014… Note 4: The total world production is a little bit more than 4 million tons per year (ICCO).
The Grenadian cacao market (Part 2)
The Grenada Chocolate Festival is really different from all the other festivals I have attended in the last years. It is one of the only festivals where participants can visit craft bean-to-bar chocolate makers and cacao plantations all around the country, as well as take part in various activities like chocolate yoga or skin products creation with cacao. The range of activities is really diversified, and one leaves the country knowing more about every aspects of the chocolate industry in Grenada. Talk about the health benefits of chocolate. You can find part of the talk here. Chocolate facial mask with cocoa powder European chocolate tasting with Elle Coco During our numerous field visits to cacao plantations and chocolate makers, I was pleased to see how many tree-to-bar makers (note 1) appeared in the last years in Grenada. There are now four of them including the well-known Grenada Chocolate Company, and a fifth one will be ready soon to sell his products. The chocolate industry is literally booming, and the Grenadian people are really proud of what is happening in their country. I did not visit all the cacao producing countries, but in the ones I traveled to, I have not seen that deep awareness and pride anywhere else. Except in Peru, where there are 12 to 15 bean-to-bar makers (and probably even more since my last visit in July 2016). Starting to make chocolate on site, in a cacao producing country, is a great way to add value to a raw material and to create more jobs in the country. It is also a way to bypass the low prices farmers receive for their crop. While in Grenada, I learned that an organization called Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) is in charge of buying, selling and exporting all the cacao beans Grenada produces. In doing so, they also fix the price to be paid to the producers. This association, owned at least in part by farmers, has the monopoly to buy cacao (Note 2). The GCA buys wet beans (Note 3) for 1,50$ EC per pound (around 0,55$ USD), in line with the commodity market; then they ferment and dry them in one of their facilities. The price paid by the GCA is not enough for the farmers to make a living. It is also not enough to recognize the specificity of the fine flavour cacao from Grenada: this cacao should not be traded on the stock market. That is one of the reasons why youths do not want to take over the family farms. And as everywhere else in the world, cacao producers are getting older, the majority of them in Grenada being in their 50s or even their 60s. Visit at the Grenada Chocolate Factory. Credits: Grenada Chocolate Festival. When a cacao producer in Grenada decides to make chocolate with his beans, he does not need to go through the GCA, which can be a huge advantage (Note 4). In that sense, the Grenada Chocolate Company has been a pioneer. When Mott Green founded the company in 1999, he created a cooperative, and farmers were part of it too. There were 10 farmers at the beginning; there are now more than 30, all organic certified. By incorporating the farmers in the company, Mott was allowed to buy their cacao beans directly, and he paid a higher price. Today, the Grenada Chocolate Company still pays more for its cacao: 2,50$ EC / pound (around 0,93$ USD) (Note 5). And since the company is a cooperative, farmers also get part of the profits. In the next part of this series, I will talk more about the mythical Grenada Chocolate Company and the challenges it will face in the next months. With Edmond Brown, co-founder of The Grenada Chocolate Company Note 1: Since everyone making chocolate in Grenada also grows it’s cacao, it’s more appropriate to use the expression tree-to-bar than bean-to-bar. Note 2: Three of its board members come from the government, while the remaining six are elected by the members of the association (Grenada Cocoa Association Act). Note 3: The wet beans are the beans freshly removed from the pods, before they undergo the fermentation and drying processes. The GCA has centralized fermentation and drying centers. Note 4: Personal communication with Lylette Primell (Crayfish Bay Chocolate) and James Mort (The Grenada Chocolate Company). Note 5: Personal communication with James Mort (The Grenada Chocolate Company).