Lessons from a T&T chocolatier
T&T’s COCOA industry sector is changing. More and smaller scale producers are coming online with chocolate-making machinery that used to be very expensive, and large scale machines are becoming more affordable and practical to use. This has sprouted batch producers from the Caribbean, Pacific and all along the equator. We in Trinidad and Tobago are at the heart of this new wave and we are riding it.
A large role of these point-of-origin producers is in storytelling: of the material, the place and the opportunity of showcasing other ingredients from that place in the cocoa. At Trinidad and Tobago Fine Cocoa Company (TTFCC) we have intrinsically put local produce into our production. One of our signature chocolates is flavoured with scorpion pepper, for example. We are developing a recipe for a starch mango pâte de fruit, expected to hit our shelves in the next week or two.
We are storytellers! Chocolate may be the medium but we are storytellers.
Storytelling has been done with wine, cheese and whisky and we are doing the same. The key element of storytelling is the opportunity…and the opportunities of local chocolate abound. The chocolate here is among the best in the world and is renowned among chocolatiers and chefs around the world. Telling the story of local chocolate is vital to realise the potential for this world-beating product whose production we must increase if we are to compete.
With Covid-19, it is increasingly important that the consumer is aware of the origin of their food and its contents, such as palm oil, how much sugar and salt as well as Fairtrade practices. We can engage the consumer with why our product has health benefits to it.
More than ever before consumers are aware of environmental and social effects of unsustainable food practices. With that awareness, there is an opportunity to present alternatives. That is a key attribute for TTFCC. Our chocolate does not contain any additives, preservatives or palm oil at all. Trinidad can replicate this across its agricultural sector.
The opportunity for agriculture in Trinidad is huge given our unique rice, pepper and other varieties of food. Agriculture can play a key role in generating revenue for the country, whether that is chocolate, cassava chips, or pepper varieties. Trinidadian chocolate companies, including TTFCC, have won international awards in each of the past three years for their products.
Bilateral collaboration is very much possible, such as between Ghana and Trinidad. Ghana has bulk cocoa but Trinidad has the possibility of providing fine flavour blends of cocoa. TTFCC is exploring that opportunity now with companies in Ghana. We want to create a sumptuous bar which has all the typical chocolate notes but whose flavour is enhanced with fine flavour, Trini cocoa.
Trinidad’s scientific knowledge can bring something new to the marketplace. At its very core, however, is devising a robust, efficient, economic model that protects the farmer and ideally would enhance agricultural practices so that we do not degrade our soils.
All of those elements brought together are key and Trinidad is poised to do just that.