October 1 was World Chocolate Day, and chocolate connoisseurs have taken the opportunity to make October a month of celebration in honour of that flavourful, decadent bean that comes from the cacao pod. Local chocolate makers like Clement Bobb, president of the Tobago Cocoa Farmers Association and manufacturer of a delicious single estate dark chocolate bar, want to celebrate more tangibly this year.
On October 5, Bobb, along with other members of the local Fine Cocoa Crafters Guild, hosted a live radio show with Radio Tambrin at Ciao Café, Scarborough, Tobago. Bobb’s Olando chocolate bar and products from other local chocolatiers like Delft Cocoa Plantations and Cocobel Chocolates were on sale as members of the guild chatted with their radio hosts about the origins of the chocolate products and why these local entrepreneurs create them. Ciao Café, also a member of the Guild, made a special dark chocolate gelato made with local cocoa.
“We want to highlight the fact that we not only grow some of the world’s best cocoa, but that we make great chocolate in Trinidad and Tobago,” Bobb said. The Trinitario cacao species is called fine flavour cocoa on the international market, which means that the taste, bouquet and quality are superior to many other species.
The hybrid was actually created in Tobago, and cacao beans from T&T are used to add flavour to other varieties of “bulk” cocoa for mass-produced chocolate products.
But the industry has experienced a serious decline over several years, and only now are stakeholders making a combined effort to revive it. What’s special about the chocolates made by local chocolatiers is that it’s usually hand-made with over 70 per cent cocoa, without additive and fillers: a true gourmet product.
Delft Cocoa Plantations and Cocobel Chocolates both produce chocolate products that pair the fruity rich cocoa with complementary tastes: for instance, Cocobel’s Bark Chocolate features sometimes tart, sometimes sweet dried pineapple drizzled on top of a dark chocolate ganache, broken into irregular pieces that resemble tree bark.
Bobb’s Olando Chocolate bar is made entirely in Tobago. He ferments and dries his beans, then uses a cottage industry type factory in his home to produce 1,000 bars per month. And he’s established quite a following in Tobago. He hopes to get some publicity at US chocolate shows and grow his demand in that market as well. But here in T&T, the taste for dark chocolate made from our own beans, which is revered by true foodies the world over, is still a slow process.
“People don’t really appreciate chocolate as a food,” Bobb said. “The reason that we’re making chocolate now is that for years we’ve only been doing one thing—growing cocoa to sell on the international market. And one of the reasons that the industry has gone down is that we are not at the business end. “Making the chocolates is a marketing effort that highlights that it can be done here, and we are doing it.”