Do you know that Grenada is called “The Spice Isle”?
If you visit this beautiful land in the middle of the Caribbean, you clearly understand why. Nutmeg, mice, cinnamon, pimento, clove trees, but also ginger, turmeric and bay leaves are grown everywhere. It’s not surprising that there is a Spice Market in the capital Saint George’s entirely dedicated to the sale of these natural flavors.
The most famous of all Grenadian spices is nutmeg, which is largely used in local recipes and products. Nutmeg ice cream, nutmeg syrup and nutmeg juice are extremely popular, and you will also find nutmeg in perfumes, soaps, products for beauty, massages and aromatherapy. There is so much nutmeg on the island that this spice alone accounts for 24% of Grenadian exports! But spices are not the only renowned products grown on the island.
Even though it accounts only for 3.8% of Grenada’s total exports, cacao has become another reason of pride for the island.
Cacao production in Grenada is very limited if compared to other countries of Central and Latin America, but it’s worth noticing that 100% of cacao grown on the island is fine flavor.
There is no trace of bulk or low-quality cacao varieties. The place that Grenada holds in the ICCO’s list of fine flavor cocoa exporting countries is well deserved. This is mainly due to the topography of the island that serves the perfect climate and altitude for cacao trees to thrive. Also, the natural biodiversity in the farms makes it possible for cacao trees to receive great nutrients from the soil and appropriate shade and water, together with all the intriguing flavors of its neighboring trees and plants. This is why Grenadian chocolate is known for its spicy and fruity aromatic components.
Surprisingly enough, appreciation for cacao hasn’t always been a priority in Grenada. It took a man from another land and a radical shift in mentality to discover the potential of Grenadian cacao.
Here is the full story.
While cacao did not originate in the Caribbean, the Spanish introduced the criollo variety of cacao as a crop to the Caribbean in the 1500’s from Venezuela.
Cacao trees were first introduced specifically in Grenada in 1714 by the French who had settled in the island since 1650 (to then cede it to the British in 1763). The geography of the island was perfect: fertile land to grow cacao and great location to export it to Europe. The industry reached great success, and by the 1760s Grenada was the largest producer and exporter of cocoa, responsible for about 50 percent of British West Indian cocoa exports. In 1772, Grenada exported 343,400 pounds of cocoa.
In the following 200 years, the cocoa industry in Grenada experienced mixed fortunes between changes of administration and prices going up and down.
In 1964, the Grenada Cocoa Association was founded. From that moment on, all exports of cocoa (as it happened for many other agricultural products made on the island) had to go through the association to be sold abroad. Cocoa farmers could not decide who to sell to, but could only sell to the GCA at the prices fixed by the association itself. At that time, all cocoa exports went to only 7 countries: UK, Belgium, Holland, US, West Germany, URSS and Canada. In 1983, 22 countries accounted for 98% of Grenadian cacao exports. Not one gram of chocolate had been made on the island yet. All cocoa beans were exported and processed abroad.
It’s in this scenario that an exceptional man arrived in Grenada.
David Laurence Friedman, known by many as Mott Green, was not new to Grenada when he decided to move permanently to the island. As a boy, Mott was a frequent visitor to Grenada as his father, the director of medical services at Coney Island Hospital in New York, taught on the island each winter, often bringing his family along.
Visionary, anarchist, idealist, environmentalist. Many appellatives have been given to Mott Green throughout the years, but his actions spoke louder than any nickname he could ever receive.
In 1999, together with Doug Browne and Edmond Brown, he founded the first chocolate making company in a cocoa-producing country: The Grenada Chocolate Company. He realized that cocoa farmers could increase their income by processing the same cocoa beans they were growing. Instead of giving their flavorful cacao away to the Grenada Cocoa Association for a fixed price, they could make chocolate (or semi-processed cocoa products) and increase the value of their beans.
This revolutionary mindset wasn’t received well by the Grenada Cocoa Association, and Mott was opposed in many ways. He had to fight to get a license to start making chocolate, but eventually managed to open the factory in Saint Patrick’s and start producing the first chocolate made in Grenada with Grenadian cacao.
It was the beginning of the tree-to-bar movement in Grenada.
In 2018, the Grenada Cocoa Association still holds the monopoly to buy all the cocoa grown on the island, but something has changed. Tired of giving away their precious cacao for mocking prices, Grenadian farmers are tasting the reward of turning their cocoa beans in chocolate and semi-processed cocoa products.
Today, there are 5 tree-to-bar chocolate companies in Grenada.
Crayfish Bay Chocolate – Ten years ago Kim and Lylette Russel started farming this piece of land in Victoria, recovering an old cocoa estate that was completely destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. The cocoa beans on the farm have turned out to be extremely high-quality, to the point that they spurred the interest of craft bean-to-bar chocolate maker Pump Street Bakery in the UK that has used these beans for its award-winning Crayfish Bay bars.
Following a successful crowd funding campaign, Kim & Lylette have now produced their own charcoal roasted bars at source on the Crayfish Bay organic plantation.
Certified organic, Kim and Lylette practice their own version of Fairtrade: controls of the lands have been given over to the local people and in return for looking after the lands they receive 90% of the highest current price available for all the wet cocoa and green nutmeg they pick.
Belmont Estate Chocolate – Belmont Estate dates back to the late 1600s during the colonial area. Prior to Hurricane Ivan in 2004, nutmegs and mace were the number one agricultural products grown on the estate. Nutmeg production has decreased by about 75 percent since then, and cocoa has now replaced nutmegs as their number one agricultural product.
One year ago, Belmont Estate set up its bean-to-bar factory only a few steps away from the cocoa plantation and started producing its own craft chocolate. The company now offers a wide assortment of cocoa products, from dark, milk and white chocolate bars to cocoa balls to make cocoa tea. Their most popular bar is the “Pure Grenada”, a dark chocolate that includes the most typical Grenadian spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and ginger).
The Grenada Chocolate Company – This is the first tree-to-bar chocolate ever made on the island. After the death of its founder Mott Green in 2013, the company continues his production under the guidance of Edmond Brown. The co-operative now has over 200 acres of organic cocoa farms which was formed with the objective of ensuring that the farmers would be fairly rewarded for their hard work.
The GCC pays 1EC$ (65%) per lbs more for the beans than the local price and in many of the farms of the co-operative is also involved in the management of the land as well as the planting, growing and harvesting of the cocoa. The cocoa is grown totally naturally without the use of any chemical pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers and has been Certified Organic by CERES. The Grenada Chocolate Company bars are exported all over the world. The most popular ones are the Salty-Licious and the Nib-A-Licious bars.
Tri Island Chocolate – The youngest chocolate brand on the island was recently launched on the market on May 12th, 2018. Up until a few years ago, Aaron Sylvester was working in the music industry in London. He then decided to go back to his Grenadian roots and take full advantage of the land that his grandparents Fitzie and Veronica passed down to him. Now cacao farmer and chocolate maker, Aaron offers 3 different chocolate bars: 80% cocoa St. Mark’s, 56% cocoa St. Andrew’s and 75% cocoa St. Andrew’s.
Jouvay Chocolate – Probably the most “industrial” chocolate made on the island, Jouvay Chocolate is manufactured in the Diamond Chocolate Factory, a former rum distillery that was built by French monks in 1774. The brand has a special collaboration with Larry Burdick, founder of L.A. Burdick Chocolate, who uses this coverture made tree-to-bar in Grenada for his creations.
To promote Grenadian cacao and chocolate, the Grenada Chocolate Festival was founded in 2014 by Magdalena Fielden, passionate chocolate lover with Mexican origins and owner of the True Blue Bay Boutique Resort in St. George’s. The festival takes places every year in May and lasts for 9 days. From cacao farm tours to yoga with chocolate, this event offers a 360° experience centered on the Food of the Gods that grows on the island.
On February 20th, 2018 the Grenada Cocoa Association has been bailed out by the Grenadian Government. This demonstrated the inefficiency of an organization that, as said by cocoa farmers themselves, has done very little to promote the finesse of Grenadian cacao around the world.
On the other side, the tree-to-bar movement in Grenada has put Grenadian cacao and chocolate on the map and made them famous around the world. It is a primal example of how the value of cacao beans can be increased by making chocolate or semi-products of cacao. The future of chocolate made in Grenada will most likely see an establishment and affirmation on the local market first, followed by increasing exports to satisfy eager chocoholics around the world. Grenada will be forever grateful to Mott Green for saving the cocoa industry on the island, and showing the way for a better future for cocoa farmers.
What is happening in Grenada is following a worldwide trend of cocoa farmers that, tired of giving away their precious cacao for exports, are creating more value for their families, their communities and their countries by making chocolate.
Get your palate ready. More incredible Grenadian chocolate will soon be served on your table!
Have you tried chocolate made in Grenada?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.