There's a growing awareness and demand for feel good products. Ethical and environmental issues are driving people to make more mindful choices that match their values, and chocolate is no exception. More people are seeking brands who embrace transparency, social, ethical and environmental responsibility, which is just another reason why project Organic Certified Cocoa is so important. But I'll get to that in the next blog post, which is day three, after the first NAASA certification session.
It’s the early morning of day two in the Solomon Islands. Stepping out of the hotel room, the water can be seen dazzling in the distance with sunlit turquoise and emerald hues. Its absolutely stunning. We get our coffee and a fresh coconut, my new favorite way to start the day.
Today we are heading to visit Diana Yates, who owns and manages Cathliro Commodities Development Limited (CCDL). CCDL is a local company with big goals of providing employment and improving the livelihood of people in the rural parts of the Solomon Islands.
When we arrive at Diana's drying farm, there are two women turning the fermenting beans, and two men raking the sun-dried beans, preparing for the boutique cocoa market. Diana has spent the last few years to really develop her business. She has even started a small-scale chocolate production site and shop at her local resort, and sells cacao pods, cocoa husk tea, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs and untempered chocolate. She also spends her time training farmers on improving their cacao farming techniques, helping to add value to the farming community and increase the quality of the beans.
Her business looks something like this:
Diana buys bulk cocoa beans from Solomon Island farmers, fresh and wet, ready to be processed at her drying farm in Honiara. Like most cacao farms in the Solomon Islands, the cocoa is traditionally farmed, where they don't use any chemicals. These quality wet beans are put into the fermentation boxes, left to ferment for seven days but needed to be turned.
Every. Single. Day.
And it's not light work! Watching the two women turning heavy buckets of fermenting beans made my job of making chocolate seem relatively easy.
The next step is sun drying, which can take between 4-7 days, depending on the process. Diana has drying racks (takes up to 7 days) and a bubble dryer (more efficient, around 4 days drying time but the investment of this dryer is costly!). The beans are sorted, tested, graded and then stored, ready to be exported and processed.
We take a tour and walk over to her micro chocolate factory, where two more lovely ladies were processing chocolate. #womeninchocolate. We get to taste the juicy sweet-ish cacao fruit (my first time!), which actually reminded me of the sweet part of WARHEADS sour candy. I bought some of Diana's cocoa powder to put in my morning coffee (became one of my necessities on the trip) and we spoke about some of her issues with making chocolate in the Solomon', which was the price of electricity!
Diana is an inspiration, development a range of products that aligns with the health, environmental, socially responsible values of cocoa farming – truly empowering her Solomon community. We love how dedicated Diana is, taking ‘feel good’ vibes to a whole other level, giving back to the people and the planet.
Learning this about Diana’s business earned major brownie points from us, that’s what we are all about! Now what a great start of our trip!