From tree to truffel: our chocolate making experience in Trinidad

Chocolate! This is something which virtually everybody likes, loves or is addicted to. This fantastic brown sweetness which melts so deliciously on your tongue, simply lies ready-wrapped in the store for us Westerners. However, behind the chocolate you’re craving at the moment, lies a long story about which, possibly similar to us, you know next to nothing about. In Trinidad we got the chance to learn a lot more about chocolatemaking (as will you if you carry on reading!).

Originally Trinidad had many cocoa plantations. I’m specifically using the word had, as many of these plantations are unfortunately no longer in use. Because of oil, which yielded the country more than enough profit, little has been invested by the government which caused the cocoa plantations to be gradually neglected. This certainly is a pity, because the most delicious chocolate can be made from the cocoa in Trinidad. Therefore we are so glad that we got the chance to get a tree to truffle experience and get to taste the best chocolate ever! Have you ever tasted chocolate with 75% cacao which is not bitter at all?

We learned our cocoa- and chocolatemaking lessons at the cocoa project of Tobias and Sparkle. Tobias is from Germany and works in Trinidad recovering the cocoa industry. In addition to his work in the cocoa industry, he started his own project in which he rehabilitates neglected cocoa estates. His girlfriend Sparkle is the one who transforms the cocoa in fantastic creations with unique fillings. We are privileged to present you with a photo impression of the whole tree to truffle process of making delicious Trini-chocolate:

Step 1: Cocoa estate rehabilitation and cocoa harvesting. A cocoa estate in Trinidad is often neglected. This means that the cocoa trees are so overgrown that sunlight can no longer penetrate to the tree leaves and that the landscape looks like a small rainforest. Fortunately machetes offer a solution to open up trees to the sun. The rehabilitation is hard work, especially because of the hot and especially humid climate. Fortunately, we are provided with a wonderful cocoa harvest from which we can already learn lesson one: The Cocoa Bean and the Coffee Bean do not grow in the same way.

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The cocoa plantation from above by drone Several various types of cocoa
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Our harvest Steve opens up a cacao tree

Step 2: Preparing the beans for fermentation. After a dip in the pool we started opening the cacao pods. Together with step 5, this is the best step of the whole process. The cocoa-pods are cut open and the beans are removed. Around the bean is a kind of jelly which you can suck. And it tastes great! It is full of flavor and it tastes sweet and fruity. Each bean has its own unique taste, some even taste like banana 🙂 All the beans are put into a container and through holes in the bottom cocoa juice drips into a bowl. This tasty fluid has probably been tasted by very few people since it’s seen as a waste product by the cocoa industry. We learn lessons 2 and 3: A cocoa pod consists not only of beans but is actually a wonderfully juicy fruit with cocoa beans as seeds. The juiciness surrounding the seeds can even be turned into a delicious cocoa wine by Sparkle.

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The beans are removed from the pod and put into the container An opened cacao pod

Step 3: Fermenting and drying. After the container is filled with beans it is covered with banana leaves and the fermentation process starts. Actually, this means that the beans rot 😉 No worries however, since this ensures that delicious chocolate can be made in the end. The fermentation process will take about one week. After the fermentation, the beans are laid on a grate to dry. This takes about two weeks.

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Fermenting beans under banana leaves Fermenting beans in the container
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Drying cocoa beans Even more drying beans 🙂

Step 4: Cocoa nibs, grinding and tempering. From this step onward, the beans gradually get converted into the end product, which is, surprisingly chocolate 😀 After the second week (mentioned in step 3) the beans are placed in an oven to dry even further. The drying process completed, the beans are being crushed (grinded) into cocoa nibs. With these nibs, Tobias makes a delicious choffie. (Just imagine that great taste!) Later on the nibs get grinded to cocoa powder. This powder, along with sugar and cocoa butter go into a grinder (Picture 1). The cocoa percentage depends on the amount of butter and sugar added. This process takes up one full day, in which the cocoa gets grinded in the grinder, freeing the natural oils and chocolate is formed. The chocolate gets tempered which means that the chocolate is heated and cooled. This step is what gives the end product its nice and shiny appearance and that great snap when you eat it. It also ensures that the optimal flavor is achieved!

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A grinder Yesss, chocolate!

Step 5: Bars or truffles? The final step is making the difficult choice between making chocolate bars, or chocolate truffles filling. The chocolate is poured into a variety of molds. After the chocolate is cooled, the tasting can begin! The end-product has been reached and a last lesson is learned: pure chocolate (for example 75%) really doesn’t have to taste bitter, this is caused by the variety. And well, cheap chocolate comes from the bitter variety. The Trini-made chocolate cost about € 0.15 per gram, just calculate what an average candy bar would amount to! Tobias and Sparkle have definitely discovered a goldmine!

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The art of making chocolate A cocoa pod and it’s delicious outcome
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Anne eating a delicious truffle with sorrel filling Delicious chocolate truffles with orange filling

Want to know more about the project of Tobias and Sparkle? You can visit their website soon! Or would you like to participate in this project and work for several weeks on a cocoa plantation? Send us an email or message. Additionally, you can also spend a night or more (which is definitely recommended) with Tobias and he will tell you with joy about his project in the cocoa (click here for more info). He also has a Facebook page, which tells you everything about it.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Simon says:

    Having my doubts on Trinidad cacao beans being the ‘most delicious’ compared to the ones here in India, never mind a great story! For sure, this chocolate doesn’t show any sign of slavery in its preparation phase and can just be sold (or eaten with the same experience) as Tony’s Chocolonely 🙂 Enjoy Peru!

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