Some people play golf; others build model trains, bake cupcakes or brew craft beer. “I was kind of a cocoa hobbyist,” says Mott Green, founder of Grenada Chocolate Company, of the ten years he split between a small home in Grenada’s rainforest and as a vagabond.
Green dropped out of university in 1988 to pursue the life of a wandering activist. Enchanted by Grenada early in his travels, he built a bamboo hut in the forest two miles away from where his chocolate factory stands today.
“I loved the cocoa balls that they sold everywhere in Grenada,” he said, of the unsweetened spheres traditionally used to make hot cocoa from cocoa powder, cocoa butter and spices—typically cinnamon, nutmeg and bay leaf. “I would drink [it] all day and started making my own, picking cocoa near my house. I traveled around, working different jobs and learning about organic farming. I would take cocoa with me on my travels and share it.”
The idea of an organic, tree-to-bar chocolate company took root. Green partnered with Edmond Brown and Doug Browne to launch Grenada Chocolate Company in 1999. Twelve local cocoa farmers are shareholders in the co-op; the largest is Belmont Estate. The 17th-century plantation and tourist attraction provides Grenada Chocolate Company with nearly half its beans, and is where the bean fermentation and drying takes place. It’s also home to the company’s tasting room and bon-bon shop.
Once dry, the beans make the mile journey to the factory where they’re roasted, winnowed (the outer shell is removed), ground and processed into exquisite dark chocolate bars by solar-powered, mostly antique machines. The team uses its own cocoa butter to give the dark chocolate a touch of creaminess; the leftover powder from the press becomes their Smilo cocoa powder.
Everything, including the South American cane sugar, is organic. “I want to create alternative transportation to get the sugar here from South America, or make my own sugar factory here, but that’s a huge, expensive project,” says Green. He has, in fact, already embarked on a 25-day journey (twelve of which were power-free) to sail his wind-cooled bars to the United Kingdom with fair transport pioneers Tres Hombres.
Green plans to send another 40,000 bars across the Atlantic on the 32-meter brigantine in February. “There’s no engine at all. It’s a reminder to the world that you can move something to market with no fuel whatsoever. It’s really a poetic statement. We will probably not make money on those bars, and I don’t know if we’ll be able to sustain it every year.”
The little factory with big ideas and grand, small-batch ambitions presently produces 60%; 71%; 82%; 100%; nib–a–licious, a 60% bar enhanced with crunchy roasted cocoa nibs; and salty-licious, a 71% bar dusted with Himalayan mineral salt. Bean to bar is great, but tree to bar merits a trip to Grenada. Or at least to Whole Foods.
Images courtesy of Jaclyn Einis.