All About Chocolate > Trinidad's "Trinitario" Cocoa, the Chocolate Lady and a side trip to South America and Grenada
Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela… cocoa trees were introduced to the West Indies by Benjamin Dacosta and from there began to be propagated in the northern regions of South America.
Some are listed on the stock exchange. They constitute 8% of the market, representing fine grade cocoa, the market's other "black gold." They include the Trinitario cocoa grown in Trinidad and Grenada, the national cocoa of Ecuador and some criollos from Venezuela.
It is Trinidad that leads the pack, however, with its favoured growing conditions in which soil, climate and tradition team up to produce a top-quality product. On the forest-covered hills, 120,000 trees produce up to 100 tonnes of the finest cocoa, trinitario, a hybrid created in 1939 from the fragile criollo and the hardy African forastera, a graft that received the blessing of the Imperial College, the colonial cocoa administrators. Delicate flavour combined with strong fruitiness are the marks of trinitario cocoa which goes into making the world's finest "couverture" chocolates. It grows on what is here called "cocoa soil," a sandy clay soil looked after by ladies in hair curlers who slowly and methodically weed around the trees. The men trim the cocoa trees yearly, cutting them back every four years to maintain a height of 5 to 8 metres to make harvesting easier.
Cocoa in Grenada - Good-Natured Growing
Grenadians love their cocoa trees. Here everyone, from government ministers to fishermen, has a tree that he cares for after work or on the weekends, using time-honoured techniques. They are careful not to prune them during a full moon when the evil spirit could come and take up residence in the cocoa pods. All Grenadians obtain their seedlings from the national nursery in order to ensure production quality is maintained. Some 6000 small producers are members of the Grenada Cocoa Association and adhere to its standards of quality.
Every small planter brings his production to Belmont or La Vilette and every fifteen minutes the women take a turn pressing the cocoa while swaying to old Creole songs.
In Grenada, the woman sees chocolate only in terms of the two kilograms provided by each tree in her yard. Two times a year, she dries the beans in the sun and roasts them in the oven before shelling the pods and reducing them to paste in a chopper. Too bitter on its own, the blackish chocolate is flavoured with a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla… then add some sugar and milk and roll this paste by hand like a big cigar and boil it in water, she tells us rather hoarsely. Her head, nodding from left to right, seems to say: Who would not know the recipe, when here it is passed on from mother to daughter? It's excellent in the morning with ham, she says. I serve it to my children every morning - it's good for their muscles and for healthy perspiration.
Cocoa - Economic Commodity, Negligible Consumption
Every country has its own eating habits, and even if it adapts its crops to meet global demand to pull itself out of an economic slump, it nevertheless remains true to its own particular culinary traditions. And so it is that these cocoa planters eat little chocolate. For the Indians of the Andes, the bean's smooth whitish pulp is a seasonal treat at harvest time, but they go no further when it comes to processing the beans or developing its flavour.
- In Guatemala, cocoa is used in a sweet-savoury soup.
- In Cuba it is mixed with corn.
- In Venezuela, it is eaten with brown sugar in Chorote chocolate.
- In Brazil, it is served in hot chocolate spiked with strong coffee.
But as for chocolate bars and pastry-making chocolate… bah! that's city chocolate!
Rankings on the world market
- Brazil: 2nd
- Ecuador: 8th
- Colombia: 9th
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