by Marc (Moth) Green
Chocolate has long been considered
an alluring and mystical food. Its complex flavor is world renowned, but
few chocolate lovers stop to consider how it is made. The technology of
chocolate production is a first-world commodity even though the essential
ingredient, cocoa, is produced only in the so-called developing world.
In the equatorial tropics, where cocoa beans are grown, big processing
and distribution companies buy the cocoa crops at exploitative prices from
economically cornered farmers and sell it on the world market.
Chocolate was first eaten by
Europeans in the 1820s. Early chocolate companies developed the technologies
of cocoa butter pressing, the separation of the fat and the solids, and
chocolate refining to produce a rich, smooth product. These technologies
advanced over the years and were generally guarded by a handful of entrepreneurs,
the descendants of whom still control the now billion-dollar chocolate
For some time I’ve been involved
in appropriate technology work in the tiny Caribbean island country, Grenada,
off the coast of Venezuela. Grenada has economic problems typical of all
Caribbean countries. Cash crop agriculture is the predominant industry
and the main exports - nutmeg, bananas, and cocoa - are grown in what is
referred to as the “plantocracy” system in which a tiny percentage of the
population owns all the productive land. Small plots are rented to the
farmers, who barely make ends meet, and the crops are exported by large
Since the Grenadian people buy
imported chocolate from the United States and Europe while exporting their
fine-quality cocoa beans to the same places, it occurred to me that the
introduction of chocolate-making technology in Grenada would be a good
approach to reversing this trend. Two years ago I began research, including
visiting U.S. factories. It became clear that the available equipment for
manufacturing quality eating chocolate, although not impossibly complicated,
is scaled for huge companies, making production prohibitively expensive
for developing countries.
Last year, two friends and I
set out to custom build a set of small-scale chocolate making machines
with the goal of starting a small cooperative chocolate company in Grenada.
By producing chocolate locally for the tourist and export markets we could
greatly increase the immediate value of the farmers’ cocoa beans, enabling
us to pay a much higher price. Eager for economic development, the Grenadian
government welcomed our project.
We have formed a cooperative
- which includes the three founding members - in which we all earn the
same hourly pay and have equal decision-making power. As we grow, more Grenadians
will be join us.
After much experimentation we
have assembled and are testing a set of machines in Oregon. When the process
is developed to our satisfaction we will bring the equipment back to Grenada.
We plan to produce top-notch dark chocolate as well as cocoa powder for
drinking and baking. We hope to build more equipment and convert a good
percentage of Grenada’s cocoa beans to these valuable products, helping
to boost the economy. ---
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