All posts by drcoconutmd

About drcoconutmd

Trust me. I'm a doctor.

Returning To the Basics: Grenada’s Chocolate Revolution

Chocolate is a universal product. Everyone knows this, yet no one can avoid it. No matter what you do at least a few times a day you come across someone selling, advertising, eating or talking about chocolate. The food is so popular that it has become ingrained as a staple in modern society. However, while being a staple of society, most people do not know the complexities behind what it takes to grow, harvest and trade chocolate. Companies fight on a daily basis to find the best cacao for the lowest price. Unfortunately, this pushes chocolate makers and providers towards ingenuine and sometimes unethical practices in order to compete within the market such as child labor, un-fair trade, in-genuine ingredient use and poor environmental impact. These have become major critiquing points for the chocolate industry. The existence of these practices shows how the present day chocolate industry has fallen out of touch with the unique flavor of chocolate, the personal relationships between farmer and consumer as well as with the environment that provides this product. Though many companies participate, in some way or another, in these unethical practices for the sake of convenience or monetary ease, there is a rising number of companies that are devoted to fair practices, high quality ingredients and environmental sustainability. One of these companies is the Grenada Chocolate company, a small group dedicated to setting an example of what chocolate production should be like through their high-quality chocolate, relationship with farmers and dedication to environmental sustainability.

 
grenada

The Grenada Chocolate company was established in 1999 by Mott Green (born David Friedman), Doug Browne and Edmond Brown who had the idea of creating a cooperative amongst Grenadian chocolate makers.1 The company is the first “Tree to Bar” chocolate company to be established in Grenada and prides themselves on fair practice and on the amount that they give back to the local economy of the village of Hermitage in St Patricks. GCC makes their award-winning chocolate using trinitario cacao beans and focuses on creating dark chocolate bars of various percentages and combinations. The story of GCC is very much linked to the story of its founder, Mott Green, who set out to create an ethical chocolate company after thinking about and seeing all the injustice that is committed while people enjoy chocolate without a clue that these injustices occur. After much contemplation, he and his partners bought a small abandoned building in the village of Hermitage and transformed it into a chocolate factory6. This was the beginning of the Grenada Chocolate Company.

In order to combat the ethical challenges within the chocolate industry, he created the GCC and established it as a bean to bar company, a company that makes their chocolate products straight from the cacao beans instead of melting purchased chocolate from a chocolate maker. This has allowed GCC to have control over their whole chocolate making process and empowers them to treat and compensate their workers fairly, something that is a current problem within the cacao industry. As a small company that lies outside the pressures of the modern cacao company Mott Green designed for GCC to be an ethical chocolate company that returns to the basics of chocolate making and selling treating both employees and the environment with respect while creating high quality chocolate in the process.

As such a company GCC has been able to find success while also keeping balance all the important relationships that are a part of chocolate production and showing that it is possible to be both ethical and successful in the chocolate industry. I will discuss a few of these relationships and offer examples as to how GCC successfully navigates them.

Dedication to Wholesome Ingredients

 One rising debate within the chocolate industry is the question of whether the existence of milk chocolate and corporation sized candy companies (like Mars and Hershey) have caused people to become accustomed to non-natural ingredients and whether that has led to a decreased appreciation and knowledge of the cacao plant and its varieties. On its own milk chocolate has no faults. However, those who only eat milk chocolate will miss out on the numerous amounts of flavor that comes with dark chocolate and how each type of cacao bean develops different tastes. Even some dark chocolate companies fill their bars with unnatural preservatives and flavorings that take away from the flavor of the cacao bean itself. This shows a disconnect in the relationship between chocolate producer and the cacao bean. While some companies do this in order to cheaply mass produce chocolate products, other companies believe that it is the job of the chocolate producer to work with the cacao and allow its various tastes to be highlighted instead of hiding it in a flood of added ingredients.

 

GCC does well in being an example of this philosophy and maintaining this balance, as they are devoted to creating chocolate with genuine and natural ingredients in ways that enhance the flavor of the cacao bean. In an effort to maximize the flavor from the cacao bean, GCC grows, ferments and processes their beans on-site (hence the bean to bar status). This allows them to have control of the fermenting process and the flavor profile of their beans while using fresh cacao beans instead of shipped ones allows their chocolate to have a much more intense flavor1. The GCC also uses organic raw sugar and vanilla as the sole sweeteners of their chocolate. In addition to its natural flavors, GCC chocolate is certified organic and free from: animal products, nuts and nut derivatives, milk and eggs, wheat, glutamines, artificial colors, preservatives and several other products that some companies add to chocolate1. This dedication to natural flavor allows for the fruity and hearty flavor of the Grenadian cacao bean to be highlighted and appreciated by all of GCC’s consumers1.

Improving Company Farmer Relations

Another big problem within the chocolate industry is the loss of relationship between producers and farmers. Though most chocolate is consumed in Europe and North America, the main cacao growers and providers are Africa, Asia, Central America and South America, due to their proximity to the equator2. As many big companies compete for the lowest prices of cacao, local cacao farmers are forced to sell their crop for lower and lower prices, threatening their livelihood. This is intensified by the fact that many farmers do not have knowledge of the cocoa world market and have to trust their buyers who act as the middlemen for the middlemen of big chocolate companies. With all these factors in play, local farmers are lost in the complex economical system of cacao trading and receive only cents compared to the billions made by big chocolate companies. This can be seen in the figure below that describes how money flows within the chocolate industry.

fair trade pic

Today there are many companies fighting this system with fair trade policies in which companies promise to pay farmers more money than what the market offers them for their cacao. While this is a good start, there is a lot more that needs to be done in order to give cacao farmers a fair shot and compensate them proportionally to the joy they provide to all who eat the chocolate made from their work.


A prime example of what more can be done has already been shown by the Grenada Chocolate Company. In 1964 Grenada founded the Grenada Cocoa Association. The purpose of this group was to act as the center point for all cocoa exporting from Grenada. This meant that farmers had to sell to them in order to get their cocoa abroad. This took away their freedom of to whom they could cell and could only sell to the GCA at the prices determined by the organization, which was usually well below reasonable prices4. It was in this scenario that the Grenada Chocolate Company was founded. After much pushback and intimidation, GCC became not only the first company to chocolate on the island (before all cacao beans in Grenada were exported) but paid their farmers fair prices and exported the chocolate themselves as well. GCC is able to do this by creating a cooperative, a group of farmers that are work together to grow, harvest, and trade a product (in this instance cacao).

 GCC not only seeks to pay their farmers well (GCC farmers are payed 65% higher than the average for most cooperatives3), but also empowers their farmers by working with them through the whole chocolate making process, teaching how they ferment and process their beans on site giving them an opportunity to work with the company and grow in knowledge and experience.

Another aspect of GCC that is not necessarily about fair trade but works to mend the producer-farmer relationship is the fact that GCC is very open about the people they work with and seek to inform their consumers about the people who are helping to grow and harvest the food they are eating. They do this by featuring all of their workers on their website as well as including photos of their cacao farmers working. This is interesting because it gets rid of the wall in between farmer and consumer. For once, people can see the people who are preparing the food they love so much. This creates a human connection and makes the idea that these people are being mistreated across the world a harder pill to swallow and is more likely to stir people to action, whether that action is campaigning for stricter fair-trade laws or just purchasing solely from fair trade companies. These actions taken by GCC not only re-establish the producer farmer relationship, but also create a consumer-farmer relationship, something that is much needed if cacao farmers are going to get the support, they need in order to make a living wage.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Champion of Environmental Sustainability

The last problem within the chocolate industry that I will talk about is the environmental impact of chocolate production. While chocolate is an amazing product to enjoy, like any other product, its production has an environmental impact that, if not monitored, will ultimately be harmful to the environment and will cause long term affects that will ultimately affect chocolate production and society in general. An example of this can be seen in the journal article “Environmental impacts of chocolate production and consumption in the UK,” by Antonios konstanas, in which the environmental impacts of various UK chocolate products were analyzed. From this analysis Konstanas’ team found that the amount of Carbon Dioxide produced by the UK chocolate industry lied in between 2.91-4.15 kg of CO2 produced per kg of chocolate produced. They also found that it takes around 41 MJ (Millijoules) of energy to create a batch of chocolate5. Noting these findings, it is important for chocolate producers to emphasize sustainability and work towards having a smaller carbon footprint within their harvesting, creation and transportation processes.

Once again GCC is leading the charge in this aspect as they seek to make their chocolate lifecycle completely devoid of carbon dioxide production and excessive energy consumption. In order to achieve this goal the Grenada Chocolate Company created one of the world’s first solar powered chocolate factories. GCC uses a combination of solar panels and grid power to power their chocolate making machines while keeping a propane fuel generator on hand in case of power outages. This emphasis on renewable energy is a step in the right direction of using clean energy to make chocolate and thus decreasing the product’s carbon footprint.

GCC SOLAR PANELS
Solar panels outfit the roof of the GCC factory

(For those who are interested how GCC did this Mott wrote an article about how and why he did this. Find it here: https://www.grenadachocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/homepower_article.pdf)

GCC also seeks to take the carbon emissions out of transport costs as much as possible. While the company usually delivers chocolate to nearby islands via sailboats1, getting their product to the main lands has always been an environmental challenge. However, in 2013 GCC partnered with the Tres Hombres Engineless Cargo Ship to ship over 50,000 chocolate bars to Europe, performing the world’s first ever mass sustainable, carbon neutral, chocolate delivery across the Atlantic1. While this was only a one-time thing, it emphasizes GCC’s devotion to restoring the relationship between chocolate producers and the environment.

ship
Mott Green with the Tres Hombres Cargo Ship

Like every billion-dollar industry, the chocolate industry has its challenges as well as ethical obstacles that need to be hurdled before the industry can be seen as completely ethical. Whether product-wise, personal or environmental there are several problems within the industry that can be solved through respect, ingenuity, unity and admiration for the cacao fruit. The Grenada Chocolate Company is a perfect example of this. Such a company models exactly how not only chocolate, but all product companies should interact with their suppliers, the environment and each other. This company was created from nothing by Mott Green who wanted to show the world what a chocolate company should look like and how it should behave and sere its community. Since then GCC has been a hidden gem in the chocolate world, constantly pushing the boundaries of modern chocolate ethnics and leading the word to a brighter and more chocolaty future. Sadly Mott Green Died on June 1st 2013 while working on solar power machinery for cooling chocolate during transport overseas3. However, his memory lives on in GCC and the values that he instilled into the company that serves as a model chocolate company, inspiring and teaching future generations of chocolate makers.

the legend
Mott Green: Founder of the Grenada Chocolate Company

 

Note: Over the course of this research project I fell in love with the Grenada Chocolate Company and even more its founder, Mott Green.  Green devoted his life to helping others and sought to make all of his experiences and the experiences of those he served, absolutely genuine. His death was a tragic loss to the world of chocolate and society in general. To understand both him and GCC a bit more check out this 30 minute video about Green, his values and GCC!

 

References (in order of appearance)

  1. “The Grenada Chocolate Company.” The Grenada Chocolate Company, n.p. Web. April 29 2019 www.grenadachocolate.com/
  2.  “The Situation.” Slave Free Chocolate, n.p, Web. 29 April 2019 www.slavefreechocolate.org/children-slavery-cocoa
  3. Yardley, William. “Mott Green, a Free-Spirited Chocolatier, Dies at 47.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 June 2013,29 April  2019 www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/business/mott-green-47-dies-founded-grenada-chocolate.html.
  4. Terennzi, Sharon. “The Fascinating Story of Chocolate Made in Grenada” Thechocolatejournalist.com. n.p. 1 June 2018. Web, 29 April 2019. https://thechocolatejournalist.com/chocolate-grenada/
  5. Konstantas Antonios et al. “Environmental impacts of chocolate production and consumption in the UK” Science Direct. April 2018. Web. 1 May 2019.
  6. Green, Mott. “Solar Powered Chocolate Factory” Grenada Chocolate Company. March 2002. Web. 1 May 2019. https://www.grenadachocolate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/homepower_article.pdf

Changing Flavor Profiles and Forgotten History: An Analysis of Europe’s Affect on Chocolate’s Flavor

There are few items in the world more universally loved than chocolate. No matter where you go chocolate is usually somewhere close by. Through advertisements, word of mouth and the simple smells of the local bakery chocolate has come to encompass society’s everyday life. The substance has been consumed, advertised and mystified to the point that it is closer to universal concept than food. However, as loved as chocolate is, most people forget (or even do not know) chocolate’s origins and original tastes. This is because as chocolate evolved, popular culture has forgotten the original tastes that chocolate once had and enhanced.  A key period in this shift is chocolate’s development from Mesoamerican product to European icon in the 17th century. In an effort to increase popularity and cultivate to European palates the changes made to chocolate stripped away a portion of its original Mesoamerican identity. In analyzing its change in ingredients, recipes and culture, one can see that, chocolate went through an appropriation, brought about by European palates in an effort to make chocolate a European product. This happened to the point that chocolate’s original form and taste became, and still is, barely recognizable as Mesoamerican.

Mesoamerican vs European Recipes

In order to understand the change in chocolate it is important to first understand its origin and original flavor profile. Before colonialism, chocolate had begun to reach its peak popularity within the Aztec empire, being used for a myriad of things, from religion to, celebrations. However, unlike the tastes of the chocolate known today the Mesoamericans flavored their chocolate using the ingredients that naturally grew in their environment like chilis and maize(Martin, Sampeck). This added a fresh taste to the chocolate; one that was also “earthy” and sometimes spicy due to the use of plants and natural ingredients in chocolate recipes. This use of their natural environment can be seen in Mesoamerican recipe’s like Lacandón Sacred Chocolate Drink, a recipe recorded by colonists after their arrival.

Recipe for Lancandon Sacred Chocolate Drink (Coe 63)

The Lancandón Drink recipe shows the Mesoamerican palate to be focused on extracting maximum flavor from the cacao while enhancing such flavor with natural grown herbs and plants and not being intimidated by chocolates innate bitterness This confectionary style is seen not as often in the present days, as large candy companies like Hershey’s and Mars create chocolate that is focused more on sweetness than enjoying the bitterness of cacao.

In comparison, upon arrival to Mesoamerica, most Europeans found the taste of the chocolate to be too bitter and the drink made from it uncomfortably thick and cold (Martin, Sampeck). This was because chocolate was an acquired taste for European palates, which were not used to the flavorings brought by unknown Mesoamerican plants and fruits. The European palate was more tailored towards sugar and spices. While those in Mesoamerica grew to like the Aztec style of chocolate and chocolate drink, in order to make chocolate profitable in Europe, the Mesoamerican flavor profile of chocolate had to be “translated” so that it could be delicious to European palates and compete with also popular newcomers tea and coffee. This prompted them to make changes to the Mesoamerican recipes so that they were more familiar to the European tastes and therefore enjoyable. Such changes can be seen in the modified recipes such as that of Antonio Colmenero De Ledesma.

Recipe for European take on the Mesoamerican chocolate drink (Coe 133-134)

As can be seen in Ledesma’s recipe the European chocolate recipes kept a few of the Mesoamerican originating ingredients, like mecaxochitl, and chilis, but also added sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and hazelnuts. This added the sweetness to the chocolate that is craved by European palates. This recipe also came with an advisory not to drink it cold (as he “Indians” did), as it was thought to cause stomach aches (Coe,134). This ultimately led to the concept of hot chocolate that we know and love today.

Modeling Flavor Profiles

There are several reasons why these ingredients were added. Such spices were the most abundant within Europe, while the original Mesonamerican ingredients were less prevalent. In order to better visualize the difference in flavor profiles between the two groups two histograms can be seen below which separate the main ingredients of European and Mesoamerican chocolate.

Mosoamerican Chocolate Flavor Profile (Martin, Sampeck)
European Chocolate Flavor Profile (Martin, Sampeck)

In comparing these two charts, the only similar ingredients between the two is sugar, which was used in a much larger amount by the Europeans. The Mesoamerican flavor profile features ingredients native to Central America like achiote, a natural food coloring grown in Central America, and xochinacatzli, a highly sought-after flower that is known for its unique spicy odor and taste (Schwattzkopf, Sanpeck 83).  An interesting point in the comparison of these two charts is the addition of milk in chocolate as the Mesoamericans did not have access to it before the arrival of the Europeans. This addition is a good example of the Europeans changing the ingredients in order to fit their palates and entice the European market. This translation from Mesoamerican to European palates is not the sole factor in the wandering away from the Mesoamaerican origin. However, over time the translation for European palates became a transition of chocolate being seen as a Mesoamerican substance to a European substance, leading to the subversion of the Mesoamerican flavor profile and ultimately, after colonization of North America by Europe, the type of chocolate we see today.

Chocolate company branded using Mesoamerican culture

Importance of Noting Change

This is why the initial difference in flavor profiles is important. It is necessary to understand because the walk away from Mesoamerican ingredients in the 17th century was the beginning of a pattern of people innovating chocolate but failing to remember its origins. This can even be seen today as presently chocolate still mostly models its European modifications but has also added its own modifications. An increase in sugar, preservatives and flavors like mint and caramel, push chocolate even further away from its origins. Today most organizations brand Chocolate that uses Mesoamerican flavors as Aztec or Mayan, not to harken back to the origins of the substance, but to increase its mystic attractiveness (figure above). This is done instead of recognizing that these Mesoamerican tastes were the original methods of chocolate consumption. The idea is not to analyze a single historical context but notice a continuous pattern of society forgetting the origins of the products/events that are around them. While such arguments may not be as dire as other current world problems it is important that we develop a habit of correcting history and giving credit where credit is due to the individuals and groups of people who have contribute to the society we enjoy so much today.

Sources

Coe, S. (2007). The true history of chocolate (Revised [and updated ed.]. ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson. Print

Sampeck Katheryn & Jonathan, Thayn, “Translating Tastes: A Cartography of Chocolate Colonialism.” (2017) pp. 72-99. Web.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” 2016 pp. 37-60. Web.

Image Credits

Coe, S. (2007). The true history of chocolate (Revised [and updated ed.]. ed.). New York: Thames and Hudson. Print.

Martin, Carla and Sampeck, Kathryn. “The Bitter and Sweet of Chocolate in Europe.” 2016 pp. 37-60. Web.

Aztecchocolateshop.com