Our Chairman, James, is in Grenada with the Grenada Chocolate Company. Here he visits a new chocolate factory on the island and gets to grips with machinery and animals of all sorts.
Back to reality and a day in the office, albeit the best smelling office in the world as the chocolate conches away.
One thing that needs to be organized is some machinery for the farm crew, who want a strimmer and a chainsaw to lessen the chore of keeping rampant West Indian vegetation in check on the farms they maintain and harvest. So I sit down and start investigating the hitherto-unexplored world of farm machinery websites. When I return home I discover that Annie and Philip are (as ever) a fount of knowledge as that they use the same machines for upkeep at Petit Anse.
Today I finally visit the new Diamond cocoa processing factory at Victoria. It’s only 2 miles as the crow flies, but takes half an hour to negotiate the rollercoaster hills in my little Suzuki noddy car, which I suspect will collapse and die at any moment – 234,165 km on the clock, and that stopped long ago.
The facility is brand new and immaculate with resin floors, some beautiful semi-antique restored machinery, a carefully thought out work-flow and ambitions to process half the cocoa on the island. It is 70% owned by the Grenada Cocoa Association who have been working together with Larry Burdick, an American chocolatier, and Felchlin, a large industrial Swiss producer. The builder/engineer who has put the whole thing together over the last three years is Jim Mort.
This new larger factory is a challenge for The Grenada Chocolate Company and the farmer’s co-operative, who will have to focus on what they do best, producing superb organic, ecological & ethical chocolate and cocoa powder on an artisanal scale. It doesn’t seem entirely a fair contest as the conglomerate have had US$270,000 of US Aid as well as around US$50,000 of local money, but it will be interesting to see how the venture progresses and we are keen to see Grenada’s profile as a chocolate-producing island raised. As I get ready to leave and we chat by the car about the planned visitor centre (which will complete the agri-tourism experience), a swarm of sand flies descend to hasten my departure.
The highlight of the day is Miss Joyce’s Oil Down: every conceivable sort of local starch (yam, sweet potato, breadfruit, plantain etc) goes into a pot with pumpkin, carrot, okra and salt fish. Coconut water (the milk squeezed from grated coconut) provides the oil component. It’s the national dish and quite delicious, guaranteed to slake the keenest appetite.
Our chocolatiers in London make Arabica coffee beans in milk chocolate, and Annie has discovered the stash that I brought with me from England. I often wonder at the different moments people choose for eating and sharing Rococo’s varied palette of products and flavours. Usually, from personal experience, I picture them being mobbed at dinner parties in the shires, but here it’s a replacement for morning cappuccino. Working with the chocolate every day I tend to take it for granted, and it’s lovely to see the pleasure with which they are demolished!
Fueled by this caffeine shot Annie sets off down the drive on Darius heading to the hotel to deal with another day’s people and their joys and worries, whether staff or punters…
At the factory I’m looking at overheads, and one of the biggest costs is air-conditioning. The room where the chocolate is refined (the hot liquid chocolate is aerated in a conch for 10-12 hours to remove excess acidity) needs to be air-conditioned, but the acid coming out of the chocolate destroys the filters and internal workings of the unit to such an extent that they have to replace the air conditioner in the refining room every year.
There’s no sign of Rentokil Grenada on the books: pest control is not a problem in the sealed air-conditioned rooms, and any rodents with a taste for cocoa beans are discouraged by Selmi. He has, apparently, been neglecting his duties somewhat of late since it is mating season among the village cats, but he doesn’t seem interested in discussing the matter.