Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tree to Bar Chocolate ; Grenada is Leading the Way

If you are familiar with bean-to-bar chocolate, then you may also be familiar with tree-to-bar chocolate. Making chocolate from bean-to-bar, starts with cocoa beans as the raw ingredient. The chocolate maker then roasts, crushes, and winnows (removes the shells) the beans, then grinds and refines them into chocolate, ages the chocolate, and takes the final steps of moulding the chocolate into bars.

Tree-to-bar chocolate starts from the raw cacao and generally occurs in the country of origin and at the cocoa farm. The farmer then ferments, dries and sorts the beans, and instead of selling their beans to cocoa exporters or chocolate makers, they take the next steps of making chocolate from them. This keeps more of the money earned from chocolate production at the farm, and in the country of origin. In some cases, chocolate makers call themselves tree-to-bar when they themselves or their family members grow the beans in one country, then convert them into chocolate in another. Either way, the chocolate profits are being kept within the farmer's family.

Grenada has become a hot spot for both bean-to-bar and tree-to-bar chocolate. With a population falling just short of 110,000 people and land mass of 344 square kilometres, this small Island has big plans for its cocoa beans.

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended the Grenada Chocolate Festival just over a week ago, and was able to see first-hand how chocolate-making-at-origin and tree-to-bar chocolate was done in Grenada. 

I should have started my tour of Grenada's cocoa farming and tree-to-bar chocolate at Tri Island Chocolate on Sunday (May 14th), where cocoa farm rehabilitation is in progress, and on-site chocolate making is at its beginning stages.  Unfortunately I arrived in Grenada a little too late for the day trip out there.

On Monday, the festival brought us to Belmont Estate, a beautiful historical cocoa plantation with a new chocolate factory at the plantation. The following days included two very different trips to Crayfish Bay, one for a tour of the bean-to-bar process, and another where I was able to 'be a farmer for a day'. And to top it all off, there was an amazing day at The Grenada Chocolate Factory.

Today I will tell you about all about The Diamond Chocolate Factory, and then the rest of the week we will explore the other chocolate makers in Grenada. Each day at the Grenada Chocolate Festival was so full of information and rich chocolate experiences, that I feel I need to spend a little extra time and page space highlighting each one.

Jouvay Chocolate and The Diamond Chocolate Factory in St. Marks, Grenada

As part of the Grenada Chocolate Festival, we participated in a tour of Diamond Chocolate Factory, where they make the Jouvay Chocolate brand. The chocolate is made in a former rum distillery operated by French monks in 1774, which was converted to a chocolate factory in 2014. We toured the grounds, where the ruins of the monastery still remain, then toured the factory through its large windows designed for visitors to peek in at the workers making chocolate.

The chocolate making equipment (conche and roll refiner) at Jouvay had quite a good size to them - not as large as you might see at a traditional bulk chocolate 'factory', but much larger than many of the refiners used by craft chocolate makers.  Perhaps it is the mix of cocoa beans used for the chocolate, or the separate conche machine that gives Jouvay chocolate a much sweeter and less acidic profile than the other chocolate makers' products that I tasted on the Island. 

Jouvay offers a wide enough range of dark chocolate, including a 60%, a 70%, a 75% and a 100% dark. Some cocoa butter and nibs and beans were also sold on site.

Jouvay's 100% dark chocolate bar is certainly on the sweeter side of the scale for an unsweetened dark chocolate, and is very creamy in texture. It has a green taste to it, like mixed salad greens or kale, with some splash of green fruit like kiwi and a touch of under-ripe lemon. And it is a complete contrast to the very bold taste of The Grenada Chocolate Company's 100% dark chocolate bar, which is fruitier, has a stronger roast taste and holds more acidity.

I personally enjoyed Jouvey's 75% dark chocolate more the most of their product line-up because it was mild and sweet overall, yet full of cocoa flavour, with floral notes and some fruitiness, low acidity and a slight fruity and earthy aftertaste. Although I suspect that many people who eat sweeter dark chocolate might prefer the 60% or the 70% bars, which were light and creamy with some earthy tones, a medium roast taste, and mild fruit flavours.

Jouvay Chocolate is a farmer-owned chocolate company, which partnered with L.A. Burdick, a chocolate bonbon and truffle maker in the U.S., to create delicious tasting chocolate intended to ensure the cocoa farmers retain more of the profit. 

Jouvay Chocolate bars found in the IGA Supermarket in Spiceland Mall
across the street from the Grand Anse Beach.

The chocolate bars can be found all over Grenada, including in the cafĂ© and shop attached to the chocolate factory, or in the airport shops. I found some at the gift shop at True Blue Bay boutique resort where I stayed, as well as at the large grocery store just across the street from the famous Grand Anse beach.  Be sure to pick up a range of these chocolate bars while you are visiting Grenada, they are tasty and a perfect gift for any dark chocolate lover in your life.

Tomorrow we will take a look at Belmont Estate, a large and lovely cocoa plantation, along with their new micro chocolate factory to create truly tree-to-bar chocolate on the farm.

For now, let's dream about Grenada Chocolate! I know I will. 

Relaxed me, enjoying the tour of The Diamond Chocolate Factory
in St. Marks, Grenada.  Can you tell I was on a 'chocolate high'?


  1. Nice article. Tree-to-bar is definitely a very good development, however one of the biggest problems with the chocolate industry today is that people under charge for the chocolate and this creates unhealthy economics that fuel a kind of modern slavery, child labour, in combination with relatively poor chocolate quality that no one is blown away by.

    Some of the problems with practices resulting in the modern day economics of a chocolate bar (and the problem of consumers not being educated about it) are:

    1. The different cacao tree varieties are being mixed together, and generally high yield cacao tree's with poorer flavor profiles are chosen over lower yield tree's with superior flavor. Resulting in systematic breeding of worse and worse tasting cacao and some extremely high quality cacao being on the brink of extinction.

    2. Fermentation of different varieties of cacao in the same batch result in under fermented or over fermented beans. This affects quality of the taste A lot, but little awareness about this at the end of the growers. Education, training is needed, but then again, at these price levels almost no one can afford to invest a lot in that and the big companies make nice stories, but do very little to change things.

    3. The bean sizes are all different and mixed together, so roasting results are not uniform (smaller beans are over roasted, or larger beans under roasted). Most chocolate makers are not even aware of the effect of non uniform roasting of cacao beans and since they are underpaid they also do not care, they just want to process it as soon and simple as possible to cut costs (can you blame them?).

    4. Environmental impact of commercial agri approach to cacao farming is mostly detrimental to existing eco systems, and involves chemicals, fertilizers, etc. (please focus on organic only people!). In many cases ancient forest makes way for a cacao grove which produces a few dollar per bar chocolate that no one will remember or gets ground up into powder for something we call chocolate milk. Can you see the problem with that? In ivory coast illegal cacao growing is now impacting habitat of animals and to protect their trees the locals would kill endangered animals. Very sad indeed, and of course they are not to blame, we created the economics that keeps this cycle going.

    I think most chocolate lovers would accept a premium for chocolate produced under better conditions, with a higher level of quality control, and better management of the type of cacao variety that is used, better wages, etc. We should keep informing the larger public about these issues so that people are more conscious about what they put in their mouths. However if the chocolate industry itself doesn't take responsibility for the situation, we might never see real advancement on these issues.

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