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+61 2 6685 7974

LOVE BYRON BAY ....SPECIALISTS IN INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL CHOCOLATE.

Love Byron Bay creperie and chocolate boutique is dedicated to sourcing, creating and sharing a quality chocolate experience from Byron Bay, Australia. We'll cultivate your understanding of cocoa, stimulate the palate with a discerning appreciation, fire the imagination with unique chocolate encounters and share the passion for this legendary food of the gods. Exceptional chocolate infused with delicious flavours, irresistible aromatic characteristics and high quality cocoa. 

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Choc Recipes, Choc Facts, Choc Travels and our regular Chocoholic-not-so-Anonymous feature. All this and more in our weekly blog.

Filtering by Tag: caribbean

Choc News : Can craft chocolate turn the tide on Haiti's devastating deforestation?

Alison Campbell

When a tiny Quebec chocolate maker won a gold prize at this year’s premier International Chocolate Awards for a bar made with Haitian cocoa beans, it rocked the specialty chocolate world. The cocoa beans had been on the market for less than a year, and a Haitian chocolate bar had never before received the award.

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Haiti produces less than 1 percent of the world’s cocoa. But today, cocoa industry players are aiming to put the Caribbean nation on the craft quality chocolate map, while providing some of the world’s poorest farmers with a better life and stemming the forces that have left Haiti a near moonscape. Stunningly 98 percent deforested, Haiti is an environmental mess, vulnerable to devastating floods and mudslides.

Efforts to connect poor cocoa farmers in Haiti to consumers willing to pay upwards of US$8 for a single chocolate bar are part of a much broader movement within the development community to combat global poverty and protect natural resources through access to such specialty markets.

But can these efforts make a difference in tackling some of the key drivers of environmental degradation? And can they do it at a scale that actually transforms struggling rural economies?

Reforesting Haiti With Tree Crops

Grinding poverty is a root cause for Haiti’s deforestation. Per capita income was just US$828 in 2015, and two-thirds of Haitians are subsistence farmers. The vast majority cook their food with wood charcoal. Charcoal production fuels deforestation, which leads to soil erosion, loss of productive agricultural land and a vicious cycle of poverty.

An estimated 50 percent of Haitian topsoil has washed away, destroying Haiti’s farmland and contributing to crop losses that reached 70% in some places in the face of extreme drought this year.

Cocoa is a tree crop that grows well in agroforestry systems, which is why Ralph Denize of FOMIN (Multilateral Investment Fund) says, “Cocoa is one of the best crops you can use for reforesting the country.”

“As long as the market is stable and farmers can depend on it, those trees will be in the ground for at least 40 years,” adds Emily Stone, founder of Uncommon Cacao.

Currently, some 20,000 smallholder farmers harvest cocoa as a cash crop in what they call “creole gardens” in two regions of Haiti. But, “garden” is a misnomer, because these dense tangles of vegetation, averaging an acre (half a hectare) in size, form mini-forests. Larger coconut, breadfruit, mango and avocado trees tower over and offer shade to the smaller cocoa trees, as well as food for the farmers and habitat for birds and other animals.

Cocoa farms are in fact one of the few places in Haiti with standing trees, according to Patrick Dessources from Root Capital, which finances small agricultural businesses and is partnering with FOMIN and other groups to rebuild Haiti’s cocoa industry.

Haiti currently exports 4,000 metric tons (4,400 tons) of cocoa per year, a big drop from its peak of 20,000 metric tons (22,000 tons) in the 1960s and far less than neighboring Dominican Republic, which exported 70,000 metric tons (77,000 tons) in 2014.

Revitalizing Haiti’s Cocoa Sector

Revitalizing Haiti’s cocoa industry can help reforest the country, but key to that revitalization is building capacity for producing the high-quality fermented cocoa beans that are used by specialty and dark chocolate manufacturers, like Palette de Bine, the award winner. Those beans fetch higher prices that help farmers live better.

As Denize puts it, “moving from unfermented to fermented cocoa is about keeping the value added in the country.”

Currently, more than 90 percent of Haiti’s cocoa beans are sold and exported in their raw, unprocessed state for mass-produced chocolate because farmers have few options for fermenting their beans. Currently there are only three fermentation facilities in the country.

One of those facilities is operated by Product de Iles S.A. or PISA, which produced the fermented beans for Palette de Bine’s winning chocolate bar. PISA sources cocoa beans from 1,500 small, family-run farms spread across the foothills of the Massif de Nord mountain range.

PISA pays farmers double the price they would receive for raw beans. That motivates them to protect their trees from the charcoal market. Pierre Daniel Phelizor, for example, a cocoa farmer of 15 years, says he’s “doing real business” with his trees now that he sells to PISA. What’s more, Phelizor runs a small nursery, selling cocoa, breadnut and mango trees to other cocoa farmers.

One of PISA’s main buyers is Taza Chocolate. The first U.S. specialty chocolate maker to enter Haiti, it did so not out of altruism, but for the quality of Haitian cocoa. “We know we have a good product — ancient variety, good terroir, organic by default,” says Taza’s sourcing manager, Jesse Last. “People will fall in love with the taste, and we hope that Haiti will benefit as it gains recognition as a source for fine-quality cacao.” Taza is partnering with Whole Foods to market the bar, which it began producing this year.

Expanding the Market

PISA needs more buyers like Taza to grow its business and expand its environmental and social impact. Gilbert Gonzales, the Haitian entrepreneur who founded PISA four years ago as a subsidiary of the Haitian agro-industrial corporation REBO, estimates that PISA’s exports will reach 160 metric tons (176 tons) this year, a sliver of the country’s capacity.

Stone, who introduced Palette de Bine to PISA’s high quality cocoa beans, says that is already starting to happen.

“We’re in conversation with much larger chocolate makers that might not be at the Hershey’s level, but they have significantly more buying power than craft chocolate makers,” she says. Dandelion Chocolate, Raaka Chocolate and Valrhona Chocolate are a few.

Globally, the specialty chocolate market accounts for less than 1 percent of the estimated US$98.3 billion chocolate industry, according to Stone. Tiny, but growing. Uncommon Cacao, for example, has grown from selling 6 metric tons (7 tons) from one country in 2011 to over 200 metric tons (220 tons) from five countries in 2016, and from just two buyers in 2011 to over 90 in 2016.

Longer term, carbon markets may help expand agroforestry systems for cocoa in Haiti, says Elizabeth Teague at Root Capital. The Livelihoods Carbon Fund, for example, raises capital from investors who earn returns via carbon credits through the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism or Verified Carbon Standard.

The fund is helping to finance a major reforestation project in Guatemala that aims to plant 5 million trees — citrus, coffee, cardamom and cocoa among them — over 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres). The project aims to sequester 2 million metric tons (2.2 million tons) of carbon dioxide and provide sustainable livelihoods for smallholder farmers.

Pur Projet in Peru offers another model. Started in 2008 by one of the founders of Alter Eco, the initiative is working to restore one of the most deforested regions of Peru in the heart of the Andean Amazon. Nearly 10,000 small-scale coffee and cocoa farmers spread across 21 communities are involved in the project, which has now reforested close to 1 million acres (close to 400,000 hectares) — an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Pur Projet is verified by both Verified Carbon Standard and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance standards for the carbon offset market. Project partners are in the process of registering close to 5 million acres (2 million hectares) of land, including both the reforested area and surrounding forest, as a Biosphere Reserve at UNESCO World Heritage. Registering the land with UNESCO will help protect the forest from development pressures and ensure that it remains a carbon sink.

Currently there are few such initiatives, says Teague, because “carbon markets are seen as unreliable.” However, several major land restoration initiatives that view agroforestry as a prime solution have been gaining traction since COP 21. Initiative 20x20, for example, aims to reforest 20 million hectares (50 million acres) of degraded land in Latin America by 2020, and is a looking at agroforestry as one key approach.

Stopping Deforestation in Haiti 

But rebuilding Haiti’s cocoa industry won’t be enough to stop deforestation. Haitians need access to alternative, affordable fuel sources, such as propane or solar stoves.

Juan Mejia, co-director of Death of a Thousand Cuts, a 2016 documentary on a brutal murder related to Haiti’s charcoal trade, says that’s the approach the government of the Dominican Republic took in the 1960s and ’70s, and Haiti could do the same thing. But, he says, “the government needs to be brought into a comprehensive plan. It can’t be a bunch of aid groups working separately.”

Ultimately, Haitians need economic opportunities. “No one wants to do the charcoal trade,” says Mejia. “It’s grueling work and for very little pay. People will tell you, ‘It’s what you do so as not to steal.’”

Rebuilding Haiti’s cocoa sector, and more broadly its agricultural capacity, can help provide those economic opportunities while also benefiting the environment.

“I’m a believer that meaningful market access for sustainable cacao production across the board can change economies,” Stone says. “We’re seeing more and more markets and chocolate makers large and small reimagine how their cacao supply chains work and thinking more deeply about these questions.”

Sourceensia.com
Writer: Meg Wilcox

 

Choc Boss: Thibault Fregoni, Daintree Estates

Alison Campbell

Daintree Estates is the world’s first commercially produced Australian origin chocolate made from cocoa grown
in the world famous Daintree region of Tropical Far North Queensland. Daintree Cocoa is 100% owned
and operated by Australians passionate about making the finest chocolate in the world. 

We chatted with Chief Chocolatier Thibault Fregoni. 

What was your favourite chocolate treat as a child? 
Incredibly when I was a kid you could buy chocolate cigarette packs! Very French indeed! The chocolate tasted like the paper it was wrapped in and was awful (probably compound) but it was lots of fun. It should have put me off chocolate but we also had some good quality dark 70% bars mum would buy at the supermarket to make cakes with. I remember it being wrapped in craft paper. It would look very hipster today!

How did you end up becoming a chocolatier?
I worked with a pastry chef when in Sydney 17 years ago and learned the basics of chocolate work. We worked with good quality chocolate and this was inspiring for me.   At the time very few people in Australia actually knew about chocolate and it has taken a long time for the industry to develop to where it is now. I remember Simon Johnson being the only place where you could find good imported Chocolate! (French obviously!) . I then set up Monsieur Truffe in Melbourne specializing in single origins bars and fresh truffles.

White, milk or dark?
Usually dark but I love a good milk with higher cocoa percentage like the one we produce
which has 45% cocoa in it instead of the usual 35% and I also don't mind white as
long as the fat in it is only cocoa butter. 

Describe your favourite chocolate in three words....
smooth, interesting, personality  

Tell us about your most memorable chocolate experience?
My work now involves more plantation and post harvest work than confectionery. The first day I spent on a plantation pruning cocoa trees with one of our farmers was very special indeed. And also the first ferment really blew my mind. Chocolate involves a lot of science which I am passionate about and keen to learn more about. I am very fortunate to be instrumental in all the steps of our process from plantation to plate.

Where is your favourite place to indulge your choc-habit?
Being in the tropics I am limited to where I can eat chocolate.
You certainly can't carry any on you so usually in our cool kitchen.

Secretly solo or shared indulgence?
Often solo I am afraid.

What's the most unusual chocolate you've ever tasted?
A high quality dark chocolate from a specific plantation was a revelation to me. I think it was a 62% from a Caribbean Island which was fruity, complex and long lasting. No other flavours were added but the cocoa itself.  Just like our Australian Single Origin bar, made with only two ingredients raw sugar and whole cocoa beans. I prefer a good Single Origin bar any time.

What is the mark of an exceptional chocolatier?
A good artisan master’s their instrument in order to create freely. An exceptional
chocolatier is like an artist. They need to have a strong personality and style to stand out.
I don’t consider myself as an exceptional chocolatier but I am happy to keep learning
which make my work so interesting.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
I haven't followed a traditional path so it would be hard for me to give any advice.
I am just following my passion. 

Thibault Regoni is Chief Chocolatier at Daintree Estates.
Daintree Estates' delicous range is available from our Love Byron Bay Boutique,
or from our online store... love-byronbay.com/chocstore.

Choc Travel : The Grenada Chocolate Festival

Alison Campbell

At 344 square kilometres, with an estimated population of 110,000, Grenada is home to miles of unspoiled white sand beaches, verdant green rolling hills, mountainous peaks, winding rivers, and cascading waterfalls. But it is also the 'Island of Spice' ...a  leading producer of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, allspice, orange/citrus peels, wild coffee, nutmeg and delicious organic cacao. The perfect Caribbean destination for a chocolate festival!

The upcoming Grenada Chocolate Festival takes place from May 12th to May 20th 2017. Visitors to this 9-day chocolate-themed festival will have the opportunity to partake in a unique visitor experience based around Grenada’s pure, delicious, organic and sustainable cacao industry.

Highlights include:

  • Becoming a farmer for a day and experience the old fashion and ethical way to grow and pick organic cacao.
  • Learning from Grenadian artisans how hand-made, small-batch, ethically-produced, tree to bar chocolate is crafted.
  • Taking a journey through the history of chocolate, bartering with cocoa beans as the Mayas did, learning to grind cocoa the old fashioned way and taste a wide range of decadently delicious chocolate food and desserts.
  • Kicking back and relaxing with friends while indulging with aromas of locally brewed chocolate cuisine, beer and rums and dancing to local drums by a bonfire at the beach, enjoying chocolate Pina Coladas and other exotic chocolate-inspired Caribbean cocktails.

And in between all that chocolate tasting, you'll be able to discover the beautiful island of Grenada, its friendly people and pristine natural environment, and luxuriate in cocoa-infused island life.

Choc Travel : Sweet delights in Costa Rica's rainforest

Alison Campbell

Cacao has deep roots in the history of the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, and chocolate tourism has taken off over the last few years, with everything from a Rainforest Chocolate Tour in which you get to harvest and grind cacao seeds, to factory tours and tastings.

With a view of the majestic Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna of San Carlos, the Rainforest Chocolate Tour offers the sweetest rainforest experience, in a region aptly named 'The Fortune' because of its extremely fertile lands. The 2-hour hands on program, offers participants the opportunity to take part in all parts of the production process, from the harvesting of the fruit, drying and grinding of the seed, developing the traditional chocolate drink of Mesoamerica and of course tasting the highest quality organic chocolate.

Sibu's Chocolate, set in the mountains 20 minutes north of downtown San Jose, weaves culture and history through their tasting tours with a sampling of fresh cacao fruit and roasted cocoa beans and samples of an indigenous hot chocolate recipe from the 1500s. Topped off with dark chocolate squares and classic European-style bonbons made on the premises. 

For true chocolate connoisseurs, the family-run Caribeans Coffee & Chocolate in Puerto Viejo, on the country's Caribbean coast, hosts a week-long chocolate dream vacation that offers a fully immersive bean-to-bar experience. Nearby Chocorart is another must-stop. The Swiss couple that runs this farm uses traditional Maya methods to cultivate their cacao and offers two-hour tours and tastings, including a sampling of their vanilla, mint, orange and coconut flavored signature chocolate stick.

Source: smithsonianmag.com
Photo credits: Elfinancierocr, Carlos Chavarria

Chocoholic not-so-anonymous #8

Alison Campbell

My name is Aaron. 
I am a chocoholic.

Are you inordinately fond of chocolate?
Yes.  

Chocolate. Incentive or reward? Or both?
I use it as both an incentive and a reward to myself after a long days work.

When did you know you were a chocoholic?
I knew I was a chocoholic from an early age.  
I originally grew up in the Caribbean on my family's cocoa plantation so I have been around chocolate for a long time.

White, milk or dark?
Milk.

Describe your favourite chocolate in three words...
 Thick, creamy and smooth.

Tell us about your most memorable chocolate experience?
I used to accompany the plantation workers sometimes when I was a kid, and help them pick the mature cocoa.
Growing up on my family's cocoa estate there was a never ending supply of chocolate.
Of course my parents kept me from having too much, but I would always sneak a few bars nightly.

Where is your favourite place to indulge your choc-habit?
Basically anywhere, but I always have one or two hot choc sticks at night.

Secretly solo or shared indulgence?
I am a solo eater.

Top choice-choc destination?
The Byron Bay Creperie and Chocolate Boutique, of course.

Favourite product in the Love Byron Bay chocolate range?
My favorite is the hot choc stick which I treat myself to everyday. :)

Aaron Montano is the Manager of the iconic Top Shop in Byron Bay.
Check out the new Top Shop app, available from the app store.
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