When an anonymous bar of chocolate appeared unannounced at Rococo’s King’s Road shop about 10 years ago, little did anyone suspect that one day Rococo would be collaborating with its sender on the Caribbean island of Grenada as a fellow cocoa farmer.
Unbeknownst to anyone that day, the seeds were sown for a international collaboration. One chocolatier in London and another on the small island of Grenada at the end of the Windward chain in the Caribbean, came together in their commitment to the highest quality chocolate and fair trade, with a revolutionary approach to chocolate production.
Mott Green founded the Grenada Chocolate Company in 2001, with Edmond Brown and Doug Browne. His regular visits to Grenada from his native New York led to an interest in the ubiquitous cocoa trees, and a passionate concern for the welfare of the cocoa farmers.
Green’s dream then was to achieve what had never been attempted and actually produce the chocolate on Grenada using cocoa grown and ignored by local smallholders, who mostly could not be bothered to harvest it. Inevitably, there were obstacles, but his motivation, determination and willingness to experiment and modify, and the help of two loyal friends, made it possible. The Grenada Chocolate Company produced its first bar in September 2001. Once their chocolate was produced, production was limited to only 80 kg a week. Since then, the Grenada Chocolate Company has grown significantly. It now produces up to 30 tons of chocolate a year but remains a micro producer, consisting of only ten employees, of which Green is one. Most importantly, Green’s work has led him to establish The Grenada Organic Cocoa Farmer’s Co-operative. With the current participation of nine certified organic farms, he hopes that one day he will be able to realise his ultimate dream: to make Grenada the first completely organic cocoa island in the world.
Of course export can only increase if Green can find chocolate retailers outside Grenada interested in selling his chocolate. This is where I came in. As a passionate chocolate enthusiast, I opened my first Rococo shop in 1983, dedicated not only to sourcing the finest origin cocoa but also committed to ensuring its ethical production and sustainability.
This meant I was inundated by samples from various producers who wanted me to taste their chocolate. I must admit to being suspicious of the chocolate bars that appeared before me, however alluring the packaging may have been! Eventually however, curiosity got the better of me. I opened the brightly coloured packaging, to find that the chocolate that lay inside was rich and full of flavour, and I soon started to stock Green’s chocolate in the King’s Road store.
Yet it was not until 2003 (the year before hurricane Ivan ripped through the island) that Green and I would finally meet. Israeli film-maker Eti Peleg – herself on a quest to discover the true essence and origins of chocolate – played matchmaker, and persuaded me to embark upon on a life-changing trip to Grenada to meet the man behind the bar. Since then, I have co-purchased one of the farms on Grenada, affectionately known as Grococo, which Green tends in return for the cocoa beans which are used in the GCC production. In addition, Rococo is now mixing the Grenada chocolate into our organic bars. At the moment ten per cent of their artisan bars are made from Grococo beans, a figure which we are keen to increase.
The link between Rococo Chocolates, Grococo and The Grenada Chocolate Company will surely only go from strength to strength. As John Scharffenberger, a leading American bean-to-bar chocolate maker recently remarked, the future of chocolate surely lies in following Green’s example of producing chocolate from cocoa literally grown in his own back yard!
Green and I are taking on another initiative: a carbon-offsetting tree planting scheme on the island. Grenada lost 90 per cent of its nutmeg with the hurricanes in 2004 and so far no-one has taken on the task of replanting it; there are simply too many other urgent tasks at hand. So for all of you who want to offset your own or your company’s carbon footprint, this could be the perfect moment to remember that little nursery rhyme:
‘I had a little nut tree, nothing would it bear, but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear…’
CHANTAL COADY found Rococo Chocolates in 1983. Today she is the author of three books on chocolate and has three shops in Central London. In 2007 Rococo formed a joint venture The Grenada Chocolate Company to produce fairly traded ‘ethical’ chocolate, which now produces up to 30 tons of chocolate a year.