Located in Central Trinidad, La Reunion Estate covers 200 hectares, on which award-winning cocoa is grown. Together with our state-of-the-art processing facility, we can produce a complete bean-to-bar product of the highest quality.
Our cocoa processing facility is located at the La Reunion Estate, Centeno (10°35′ N Latitude and 61°20′ W Longitude), which is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries. The exemplary design and layout of the facility and its equipment is stream-lined for efficiency and teaching people about the chocolate-making process.
La Reunion Estate was established in the late 1940s for research and to support the cocoa sector. It carries out breeding programmes, conservation, agronomy and processing trials, provides farmers with planting material and technical advice, training and infrastructure. La Reunion produces the highest quality of Trinitario beans, which have achieved global recognition by consistently winning awards at the Salon du Chocolat in Paris every year.
From bean to bar and initial processing
The cocoa trees at La Reunion are cared for by a team of highly trained experts from the Ministry of Agriculture. Harvesting takes place twice a year. Once harvested the beans are taken to a system of double-walled sweatboxes, which are in a cascade arrangement with three sweatboxes per cascade (one for each day of turning.) The sweatboxes are made of Cedar wood, and each cascade holds approximately 2000kgs of wet beans per box. This is where fermentation takes place; on each day of fermentation, the beans are tipped into the sweatbox lower down the cascade to mix and disperse the heat for even fermentation.
After three days of fermentation, the beans are spread out on large flat drying beds. Hot air is blown through the beans through small vents in the floor of the drying beds. Drying usually takes 3 – 4 days to reach approximately 7.5% moisture content.
Traditionally, beans were laid out in the sun to dry, and people would shuffle through the beans to promote air-flow; this was known as ‘dancing the cocoa.’ A simple roof fixed on rails would be slid into position over the beans when it rained. Some estates still use this basic solar drying method.
Once fermented and dried, the beans are then taken to our cocoa processing facility, where we have a Weiner ball mill and equipment from Jaf Inox, a Brazilian company that specializes in manufacturing top-of the range gourmet chocolate-making equipment . Purchased in 2015, the equipment allows us to produce a range of cocoa products including cocoa nibs, coverture, chocolate and cocoa butter.
Our ball mill and 200kg conche enable us to get the particle size down to below 20 microns, giving a fine smooth finish to the chocolate. The processing facility has an annual production of 50 metric tonnes with the capacity to increase to 100 metric tonnes over the next 3 years.
This is a new and exciting chapter in Trinidad & Tobago’s cocoa story.
La Reunion Flavour Profile
The flavour profiles of La Reunion beans and our cocoa products are regularly analysed by scientists at the Cocoa Research Centre. There is some variation that occurs between bean batch and different stages of production, but with their guidance, we continually tweak our processing conditions to bring out the very best natural flavour attributes without adding anything extra. The fermentation, roasting and conching steps primarily affect the flavour, whilst the ball-mill grinding, conching and tempering stages tend to affect the mouthfeel.
Naturally there is a strong cocoa flavour, but this is balanced with a marked raisin-like fruitiness and subtle floral notes. Having relatively little bitterness, a faint caramelised flavour develops towards the end. The mouthfeel is rich, smooth and has a velvet-like depth.
Flavour profile of beans from La Reunion Estate, analysis by Cocoa Research Centre, University of West Indies.