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Thursday, December 05, 2013
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Grenada Chocolate Co founder dead at 47
The man responsible for the thriving cocoa industry in Grenada has died. The founder of Grenada’s first chocolate factory, Mott Green, 47, was electrocuted on June 1, while repairing solar-powered machinery for cooling chocolate at his storehouse on Belmont Estate in St Patrick, Grenada.
Green established the Grenada Chocolate Company with his business partners the late Doug Brown and Edmond Brown in 1999, with the slogan “Tree Bar”—indicative of its environment-conscious approach to production.
Born David Lawrence Friedman, Green, originally from New York, went to the island in 1987 as a teen with his father, Dr Sandor Friedman, the director of medical services at Coney Island Hospital, who taught on the island each winter.
The name Mott came from the way Grenadian pronounced his nickname, Moth. His adopted surname, Green, was reflective of his love for the environment.
According to the New York Times, Green, who grew up on Staten Island, acquired a taste for cocoa, a local favourite among Grenadians, while living on the island. He soon left the remote hut he built himself in the jungle there, and took interest in the concerns of cocoa farmers and workers. To get a better understanding of the agriculture of cocoa, Green with friend Doug Brown of Eugene, Oregon, studied chocolate production in San Francisco. While working in Eugene, they restored old machines from Europe and built new ones themselves. All their equipment was shipped to Grenada in the late 1990s.
As a child Green always found ways to be environmentally friendly, like making go-karts using lawnmower engines. He was a university dropout, who felt accepting a degree would be contributing to an “already existing iniquitous society.” Green spent much of his 20s squatting with a community of anarchists in abandoned homes in west Philadelphia, where he “rescued” food that restaurants had planned to throw away and distributed it to homeless people.
Perhaps that’s why it was not surprising that he defied the adverse climatic conditions in Grenada, and set up a chocolate factory using solar energy to produce rich dark chocolate bars of single origin, made from Trinitario cocoa. The Caribbean cocoa later became the most envied by chocolate-makers around the world.
The tiny operation situated in the cocoa groves of Grenada’s rainforest, would eventually export chocolate around the world with the help of sailboats, bicycles and solar-powered refrigeration.
The idealist worked with the local small farmers who were paid handsomely according to another report in the UK Telegraph. It said his 50 factory workers earned the same wage as he did and at times even more. Green was also noted for this as it is often argued agricultural labourers receive small wages and are not treated humanely. He lobbied against the bad treatment of small cocoa farmers, especially against the exploitation of child workers in Africa by buyers and exporters who sell cocoa to big chocolate companies.
He fought these issues, the New York Times said, by dealing directly with small growers and by keeping the processing and packaging of chocolate within Grenada.
In a 2012 interview with a Dallas-based magazine, D, Green was quoted as saying: “My progression was activist, love Grenada, love cocoa, love machines and tinkering, making chocolate, and doing it all without hurting the land.”
Green’s chocolate-making routine, according to the New York Times, went something like this: he dried cocoa beans in the sun; built, maintained and powered the machinery to make chocolate; packaged the finished product; and cobbled together an international network of distributors, including volunteer cargo cyclists in the Netherlands.
“With a weekly output of less than 300 pounds, Grenada Chocolate Company’s chocolate, is some of the most expensive chocolate in the world (a bar of Grenada Dark, 71 per cent, costs close to six pounds) said the businessgrenada.com.
Though the company gained, recognition from several notable organisations for its contribution to the economy, including accolades from the State Department, which praised its outstanding environmental conservation efforts and promotion of organic farming.
In 2012, the company made its biggest shipping deal, delivering tens of thousands of chocolate bars to Europe on a sail-powered Dutch ship, the called Brigantine Tres Hombres, operated by a company called Fairtransport.
A documentary film about the company, Nothing Like Chocolate, was released last year. It was directed by Kum-Kum Bhavnani.
Now that “the chocolate man” is no more, his mother Dr Judith Friedman told the New York Times she and several other people involved with the company were meeting this month in Grenada to discuss future plans for the company.
Green saw something, even when the people of the region saw nothing
American journalist and chef Ramin Ganeshram, who is of Trinidadian heritage, told the T&T Guardian in a brief telephone interview, she was saddened and upset by Green’s death. The author of Sweet Hands: Island Cooking From T&T, said she never met Green in person but had the privilege of interviewing him over the phone for an article on the cocoa industry, which she was writing for Islands Magazine.
“If anybody knows how chocolate is made, a tropical climate is not conducive and it is also not able to sail. But here you had this ‘crazy American guy’ going against all the odds to produce a great dark chocolate, through environmentally friendly means.
“He simply took a bean that is developed in T&T—the Trinitario—and created a gourmet single-origin chocolate industry,” said Ganeshram.
“For this guy to have had no background history in agriculture, let alone cocoa cultivation, to come to Grenada and create such a great product, it simply meant he saw something, even when the people of the region saw nothing.”
She said in addition to being the head of such a great company, he was also responsible for bringing attention to the condition of the cocoa industry and cocoa labourers.
“The norm was not to treat agricultural/cocoa labourers well. We would not even be discussing the issue of child labour in the cocoa industry in West Africa, had it not been for Green and the expose on the way he treated his workers,” said Ganeshram.
She said Green also proved you could create an incredibly high-end product with little technology and without hurting the environment.
Ganeshram said she hoped the company did not die along with Green.
On a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme which paid tribute to Green, Sarah Jane Stanes of the British Academy of Chocolate said: “You won’t have to have heard of Mott Green or even tasted his chocolate to find this story fascinating because it will take us into lush cocoa plantations and inside fragrant fermentation rooms, but most of all it’s a life story that serves as a reminder how amazing, or sometimes complicated but mostly delicious an obsession can be.”
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