You can't get great chocolate without the finest cocoa
Chocolate isn't merely a Valentine's Day treat. It's perhaps the best year-round 'gift of love' to treat someone or yourself. Chocolate is the perfect pick-me-up, with its many tastes that often include other ingredients to make it sweet, minty, fruity or even savoury.
A lot of the chocolate made in the world is flavoured with fine cocoa grown in this region - Belize, Costa Rica, Grenada, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago.
Several regional producers of chocolate and cocoa products exhibited their goods at The RitzCarlton hotel in Montego Bay at the second annual Caribbean Fine Cocoa Conference & Chocolate Expo on September 15-16. These include: Chocolate Dreams and 3 Star Grandma Original from Jamaica, Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride, Cocobel and Delft Cocoa Plantations from Trinidad and The Grenada Chocolate Company.
Here are some of the tasty cocoa and chocolate products that were on display at the expo.
From Exotic Caribbean Mountain Pride, the traditional drinking chocolate used to make cocoa tea. Astrida Saunders from Exotic wants the region to recognise the value of cocoa and for entrepreneurs to develop more value-added products.
The Cherry Surprise made with white rum, cherries and white chocolate is one of the most popular items at Chocolate Dreams. Owner Michelle Smith says the quality of local cocoa is excellent, and hopes that Jamaica's farmers will soon export a larger quantity of "the finest beans in the world".
Trinidad is also proud of the flavour of its cocoa. One of the exhibitors at the expo, Isabel Brash, who is the owner of Cocobel, had this to say about her raw material. "We have divine cocoa! You can only make good chocolate with good cocoa and I am blessed to come from a place that has fine cacao," says Brash. "Our beans are sought after for their fruity and floral notes. The cocoa farmers should be reaping more of the rewards for harvesting this cocoa."
Most popular products
One of Cocobel's most popular products is the Ginger Bark, slabs of single estate chocolate sprinkled with different local ingredients that are processed by owner Isabel Brash.
Mott Green, director of The Grenada Chocolate Company, says his most popular products are dark chocolate bars. They were showcased at the expo as well as the company's cocoa powder.
Most chocolate/cocoa producers and retailers look forward to seeing more investment in the industry. The Caribbean Fine Cocoa Forum and Chocolate Expo helped to increase awareness in the industry as well as attract investment.
Consumers have good reason to support the local cocoa industry: its growth means we can enjoy chocolate all year round with our friends and family.
Chocolate makes everyone smile - even bankers. - Chocolatier Benneville Strohecker.